Pork Riblets Simmered in Caramel Sauce

From an old issue of Saveur Magazine

2008 Nov/Dec

This is a northern Vietnamese dish


  • 3 lbs baby back pork ribs, cut in half by butcher and separated into riblets
  • ½ small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 c. plus 2 t sugar
  • 1 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 4 T. nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)


Put pork, onions, 2 teaspoons sugar, pepper, oil and 2 tablespoons fish sauce into a medium bowl and mix well. Cover and marinate for 2 to 4 hours, mixing from time to time. Preheat the broiler, put the pork on a baking sheet and broil until charred in places, turning once, 5 to 10 minutes per side.

Put the remaining 2 cups sugar and 1/3 cup water into a large, heavy saucepan. Cover and boil over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until sugar reaches 370°F on a candy thermometer and turns dark reddish-brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 1 minute.

Carefully whisk ½ cup water into the caramel, return the pan to medium heat, and stir about 5 minutes. Add the pork and accumulated juices, the remaining fish sauce and ½ cup water. Stir to coat the riblets with sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer, skimming fat occasionally, until the pork is tender, about 1 hour. Serve with rice. Serves 6.