Dim sum makes me sad. We don’t go very often, but when we do hit the incredibly crowded Mandarin Kitchen (best dim sum in the Twin Cities, in my opinion) I’m sad when we have to wait, I’m sad that I can’t taste every single delicious thing I see on those little carts and I’m sad that I can’t finish what we do manage to pile onto the table. Though it makes me sad, I do love dim sum an awful lot.
Dim sum made the Top Chef All-Stars contestants sad too because they almost universally chose food that was too fussy and had too many components to be quickly prepared during a dim sum rush at a busy restaurant. Two of the winners were Dale Talde with sweet sticky rice with Chinese bacon and Fabio Viviani’s soy honey-glazed spicy pork ribs and those were the winners K and I chose to try our hands at.
The recipe for the ribs is actually pretty simple and features ketchup, hoisin sauce, soy, chili paste, sesame seeds, honey and green tea. The problem? It also calls for the ribs to braise in the oven for three hours. Crock pot to the rescue! I went home over lunch, mixed up the sauce and put it and the meat into the crock pot. I cranked it to high to get it to simmer with the intention of turning it to low before I went back to the office. But I forgot. And the rest of the afternoon was spent obsessing over the fact that the crock pot would explode or the sauce would reduce to nothing or everything would burn. None of this happened. In fact, when I got home, the meat was SUPER tender and the simmering sauce perfumed the air and earned an audience of two sniffing dogs stalking the crock pot from the floor.
The rice … well, that was another story. The recipe calls for sticky rice (aka sushi rice) to soak in an undetermined amount of cold water. Then it instructed us to add oyster sauce, shao-xing wine, ginger, garlic, scallion, sugar and salt to the rice and bring to a boil then drain everything off before steaming the rice for an hour. A) Something didn’t seem right about the recipe to us (in retrospect, what do we know?). B) Those ribs were smellin’ go0-od and I was too hungry to wait more than an hour for some rice.
I suggested using K’s rice maker — which takes about 20 minutes to make perfect sticky rice — then mixing in the ingredients. K suggested simply boiling the rice in the ingredients on the stove. We both made our case for our alternate method of rice cooking and K felt very strongly his would work best so we went with it.
We have a gas stove and, even on the lowest of low flames, it seems to get very hot. The cooking liquid boiled away almost immediately. So K kept adding more water. And it would boil away and he’d add more, etc. About 40 minutes (and countless additions of water later), we had a VERY glutinous and bland sticky rice “risotto.” While the rice was cooking, I fried and cut up some bacon. We added that to the rice in the hopes it would add some salt. It did, but not enough. K added more of the ingredients. Since the banana leaves were just for wrapping the finished sticky rice, we skipped those.
We were now starving, cranky and I’d eaten about a meal’s worth of snacks so we just ate. The rice was … glutinous. That’s about all we could say about it. The ribs, on the other hand, were fantastic! While not originally intended as a crock pot recipe, I would highly recommend putting this sauce and some ribs in your slow cooker when you leave for work, set it on low and when you come home you’ll have delicious, unique, fall-off-the-bone tender ribs. If you’re interested in the rice, try sticking to the recipe. Going off-book didn’t benefit us in this case and it probably would have been worth the hour of rice steaming as recommended. Or skip the rice completely and just eat more ribs!