Char Sui (and Sodium-Free) Short Ribs

January  6, 2011
2 Ratings
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

I have always been jealous of the impossibly aromatic, unnaturally colored Chinese Char Sui meat that my man-friend buys at the local Asian market. The pink chunks of juicy BBQ'd ribs smell of spice and smoke, and always make me drool. But alas, because the red coloring comes from fermented tofu and the husky flavor comes from a generous helping of soy sauce and Hoisin, this low sodium girl and her delicate kidneys have to pass on the original dish.

But no one said I couldn't try and make a low sodium version. And since hypertension tends to be a big problem in Char Sui-popular places like Hawaii, perhaps this version will not only be delicious, but motivating for people with low-sodium needs to take charge of their health with healthier food.
To lose the salt but keep the flavor, I swapped molasses for the soy and Hoisin; used most of the other original ingredients; and added a bit of orange juice and cayenne for unexpected zing. Sure, it isn't traditional Char Sui (which usually uses pork spare ribs) but it has all the same mouth-watering, meat-melting flavors. - Sodium Girl —Sodium Girl

Test Kitchen Notes

The Char Sui ribs were really easy to make, with almost no hands on prep time. I also love that that the ingredient list was so short! The aroma the ribs produced while cooking had everyone drooling by dinnertime! The finished ribs were sweet, tender, and almost melted in your mouth! I paired them with coconut rice and sauteed bok choy for a fabulous quick and easy weeknight meal! —epickles

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 pounds short ribs spare ribs
  • 1/4 cup cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. In a bowl, mix all the spices and liquids together. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Place short ribs in an oven safe dish, and rub them down with the ingredients in the bowl (mentioned above). Roll up those sleeves and do not be afraid to get your hands dirty. Make sure to rub the marinade all over both sides of the meat. Cover the dish and allow the meat to refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
  3. On the day of serving, heat the oven to 325 degrees. While temperature is climbing, take meat out of the refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature.
  4. Cover oven dish with foil and cook spare ribs for 30 minutes.
  5. Baste the ribs in the marinade and cooking juices, and then continue to cook for another 30 minutes without the foil.
  6. Test the meat and when it easily falls apart with a fork, it is ready to eat! Serve with cabbage, rice, or slightly steamed bok choy for a completely mesmerizing meal.
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  • ellencooks
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  • Elizabeth Holmes
    Elizabeth Holmes
In January of 2004, I received a diagnosis that changed my life. I was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease that in my case attacked my kidneys and brain. Due to the intensity of the initial “flare up” of the disease, I became renal insufficient and eventually faced kidney failure. Amazingly, through great medicine, wonderful family and friends, and an enormous amount of support, I became stronger and healthier and miraculously, my kidneys partially regenerated. I no longer depend on dialysis and by regulating my diet, I depend on fewer medications. Five years later, I work part time and live a full and utterly enjoyable life. My dietary restrictions have transformed into a real passion for food and I hope to be able to pass along my favorite finds to others facing similar dietary challenges. Be creative, be friendly, and be full!

3 Reviews

Elizabeth H. February 3, 2019
I tried this and while the marinade was great, there is difference between short ribs and spare ribs, but they seem to be used interchangeably in the ingredient list. Beef short ribs were definitely not tender in the time suggested and if you let it go a little longer it dries out and burns. Pork spare ribs are a better option.
ellencooks August 13, 2018
A terrific recipe! At the low temp I let them go for 2hrs. to be super tender. Then simmer the sauce alone for a few minutes to thicken.
Sliced thin a soup or for a sandwich or place on top of rice. Very tasty.
Midwest_Kitchen May 4, 2013
Made this last night and it was outstanding. Went a bit longer at low temp to render more fat and then basted to get a glossy shine. Outstanding and really enjoyed the lower sodium.