From one of the all-time great Chinese cookbooks "The Key to Chinese Cooking" by Irene Kuo "This is a light-hearted title for an extremely easy and delectable dish--the 1 to 5 referring to the simmering ingredients. The sauce-coated meat is succulent, with a deep sweet and sour flavor. The dish serves 2 or 3 amply when accompanied by rice and a stir-fried leafy vegetable or a crisp salad. The ribs are also good as an appetizer. —JohnL
Separate the ribs first; then chop each, meat side down, into 3 pieces. (John's note: Asian supermarkets sell pork ribs already sliced flanken-style, which will be much easier for you to chop into pieces. Recommend you seek them out). Put them in a skillet or saucepan and set it over high heat; add the simmering ingredients and stir to mingle. When the liquid comes to a boil, adjust heat to maintain a very gentle simmering, (John's note: not THAT gentle; you want the liquid to mostly evaporate by recipe's end) and cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Stir and turn the spareribs from time to time.
Uncover and turn heat high to bring the sauce to a sizzling boil. (John's note: when you uncover the pot, the ribs will look unappetizing, but take heart, in just a few minutes they will become gorgeous, worthy of a magazine cover!). Stir rapidly until the sauce is all but evaporated and the ribs are coated in a rich glaze. Arrange ribs on serving platter.
My personal touch is to sprinkle a thinly sliced scallion over the ribs when you plate them. This dish looks and tastes very impressive. We've all had the experience of being in a Chinese restaurant when a fantastic-looking dish is brought to another table of diners, and you think "Mmmm wonder what that is, wish we had ordered that dish." This is one of those dishes. Try it--you'll see!