Red braised spareribs with potatoes and carrots

First published

Oh, hi! I hope you came hungry, because I certainly did.

I’m better at cooking than I am at food photography. Trust me.

I learned how to make this particular variation of red braised pork (or hongshao rou, as it’s known in Mandarin) from my mother. The use of brown sugar for a sweeter, caramelized flavor is a reflection of my mother’s Jiangsu upbringing. As for the potatoes and carrots, Mom tells me that she added them because we kids liked them. Sound logic, no?

The actual cooking takes somewhere around 45 minutes. There’s about 15 minutes of prep needed as well, but you can do most of it during the cooking.


Serves two to three people once, or one person two to three times.

I’m not a stickler for exact numbers — I cook based largely on feeling — so the measurements are all fuzzy guesses. Feel free to experiment.

  • 250 g (½ lb) pork spareribs
  • 1 large potato
  • Half of a decently-sized carrot
  • Fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp rice cooking wine
  • 3 tbsp Zhenjiang (Chinkiang) vinegar
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce — we like Wan Ja Shan (万家香) brand
  • 1½–3 tbsp brown sugar — adjust to taste
  • ½ tsp tapioca powder


  1. Cut the spareribs into chunks about 5 cm (2 in) on a side, if you didn’t buy them already cut that way. Braise the ribs in a wok over high heat until they begin to turn light brown.

  2. Add the cooking wine, and a slice or two of the ginger.

  3. Mix the vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar together, and add the resulting sauce to the wok.

  4. Add… oh, maybe a cup of water, or at least enough to cover the bottom of the wok. (I told you I’m not really one for numbers.)

  5. Cover the wok, and let it simmer until the meat and bone of the ribs begin to separate. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes.

  6. In the meantime, peel the potato and carrot. Cut the potato into chunks a little smaller than the ribs, and the carrot into slices somewhere around 5 to 10 mm (½ to ¼ in) thick.

  7. When the meat looks ready, add the potato and carrot chunks to the wok, then cover it again. Let it simmer until the potatoes have softened. I like them tender enough that I don’t even have to chew them; this generally takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

  8. Remove the wok from heat. Mix the tapioca powder with about ¼ cup water, and add it to the pan, stirring it into the sauce.

Serve and enjoy! The dish goes quite well with white rice.