Recipe: Braised Taro & Pork Riblets



When The Kitchn asked me what recipe I've made more than any other this year, I immediately knew I had to write up a short post about this one: Braised Taro with Pork Riblets. This is one of my weekday staples because you can:

  • Make it in large batches for now and later

  • Adjust the seasonings on your preferences to keep things fun and interesting

  • Minimize cleanup by only using one pot to make this whole dish

I've been making this on repeat since the beginning of the pandemic but didn't finalize a recipe until I teamed up with Proclamation Goods for a Giving Tuesday special benefiting my nonprofit, Studio ATAO. You can read more about the campaign here, and watch a special BTS video of the dish here.


Taro is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world, and is incorporated into cuisines across the globe, from being fermented into poi in Hawai'i to its leaves being cooked into laing in the Philippines. Back during China's dynastic periods, taro was considered a luxury dish for the royal family. Compared to other root vegetables, taro has a very unique starchy-yet-fluffy texture, an unreplicable taste, and since both its corm (the bulb) and its leaves can be eaten the uses for the plant are endless.


Note that taro comes (primarily) in two sizes - the smaller one is roughly the same size as an average Yukon potato, whereas the larger one is the size of an average butternut squash. Both types of taro have a hairy outside that is slightly toxic to human skin, so if you are buying whole, unpeeled taro make sure to use gloves while processing them.


Braised taro with pork riblets is a pretty common dish to find across Chinese households, and the variations per household (and region) are plentiful. Some are made with pork belly, some are soupy, some are dark and flush with soy sauce, etc. For context, the first iterations of this dish I learned from my mom and grandma, and they are from Shanghai, China. Since then, I've been making my own little adjustments to this recipe to suit my (and my husband's) tastebuds, as you should feel free to as well. This is a versatile dish that feels satisfying from lunch, dinner, and even breakfast if you're a savory breakfast type of person (like me!). You can make it into a stew, or you can even debone the pork, shred it, and use the taro-plus-pork to make a filling for steamed buns or fried tofu puffs.


Note: For those who know me, you know I'm a stickler on gram weights, and you'll notice this recipe is in volume measurements. Why? Because honestly, the recipe is very variable and nothing is so specific you need to weigh it out (at least I don't). Cook with your best judgement, adjusting the seasonings up/down depending on your own likes/dislikes.


Braised Taro and Pork Riblets

Serves 4


Ingredients

· ~2lbs pork riblets or rib tips (not the same as spare ribs!)

· ¼ cup fermented black beans, minced

· 1.5” knub ginger, peeled, minced (approx. 1 Tbsp)

· 6 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

· 3 Tbsp soy sauce

· 2 Tbsp Yondu

· 2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine

· 2 Tbsp mirin


· ¼ cup neutral oil (if you have it available, roasted rapeseed oil is excellent)

· 3 stalks scallion, stemmed, minced

· 3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

· 1" knub ginger, peeled, minced (approx. 2 tsp)

· 1-2lbs peeled taro, large dice (depending on what you want as your pork to taro ratio)

· 2 tsp - 1 Tbsp kosher salt, depending on salt variety (I use Morton's coarse, so if you are using Diamond Crystal you'll likely need to 2x this)

· 1 raw chicken carcass (optional)

· 1 quart unsalted chicken, pork, or vegetable stock


· 3 Tbsp soy sauce

· ¼ tsp ground white pepper (note: white pepper from Asian supermarkets are fermented 2-3 weeks longer than those from Western grocery stores, and taste very different)

· ½ tsp silk chili (optional – can substitute Aleppo pepper)

· ½ tsp ground shiitake powder (optional – can substitute ground porcini powder)

· 1-2 Tbsp Shanghai white vinegar

· 1 tsp white sugar


· ¼ cup cilantro, chopped

· ¼ cup epazote, chopped (optional)

· ¼ cup holy basil, chopped (optional)


Instructions


1. Combine riblets with fermented black beans, ginger, garlic, soy, Yondu, shaoxing, mirin. Mix thoroughly.

2. Let marinate at least 4 hours, or overnight.

a. Optional step: heat ¼ cup neutral oil in suitably sized skillet over high heat, add riblets, and brown riblets all over (approx. 5 minutes).

3. Heat neutral oil in suitably sized pot over medium heat until slick and shiny.

4. Add scallion, garlic, ginger and cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute.

5. Add taro and salt, stirring intermittently, until lightly browned on all sides, approx. 5 minutes.

6. Add chicken carcass and chicken stock, plus all riblets with marinade.

7. Add soy sauce, white pepper, silk chili, shiitake powder, white vinegar, sugar to pot.

8. Increase heat to high, and bring mixture to a light boil.

9. Reduce heat to low, cover and let braise ~1 hour, or until taro is fully cooked through and riblets are tender. (You can add additional stock if the liquid is cooking down too quickly.)

10. Season with additional soy, Yondu, sugar, vinegar to taste.

11. Uncover and let cook another ~10 minutes, or until reduced to desired consistency.

12. Remove chicken back.

13. Turn off heat and stir in cilantro, epazote, holy basil.

14. Serve!

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