Five Spice Short Ribs

Five Spice Short Ribs
Five Spice Short Ribs

Do you have a recipe in one of your go-to cookbooks that is so smudged with grease and food residue that looking at it produces a feeling of simultaneous revulsion and pride? This is one of those recipes for me. I have played with it a lot over the years, trying it in a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and Dutch oven (winner!); adding more or less of different ingredients, and serving it with every carbohydrate imaginable (except for polenta because that shit would be weird). The version below is my favourite way to serve it, and of course it doesn’t even deviate that much from the original recipe, so my chronic fiddling was probably for naught (except that I got to eat copious amounts of short ribs along the way, so there really was no losing outcome). Forget recreating the smell of freshly-baked cookies when trying to sell real estate – the heady aroma of short ribs cooked with cinnamon, soy, five spice, and ginger is what we should all constantly be pumping through our air vents.

Five Spice Short Ribs

Five Spice Short Ribs w/ Scallions + Sesame

Adapted from Shelley Adams (Whitewater Cooks with Friends)

Serves 6


½ tsp Chinese five spice powder
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (divided)
4 tbsp peeled and minced ginger root (divided)
7 tbsp vegetable oil (divided)
5-6 lb bone-in beef short ribs (English-style)
1 tsp kosher salt + more as needed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper + more as needed
1 medium yellow onion, sliced in half and then into half-moons
4 green onions (scallions), chopped + extra for garnishing
½ tsp dried red chile flakes
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
4 whole star anise pods
½ tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
½ bunch cilantro, chopped (stems and all!)
½ cup sake
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef stock
1 orange
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnishing
The mashed potatoes from this post, for serving


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix together the five spice powder, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 tbsp ginger, and 3 tbsp vegetable oil. Season the short ribs on all sides with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper then rub the spiced oil all over the ribs, smashing up the garlic with your fingers as best you can (pick off any awkwardly big chunks that stick to the ribs). Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (or Dutch oven) set over medium-high heat. Once hot add the short ribs, in batches, searing on each side until a golden-brown crust has formed. Place the seared short ribs on large plate as you brown the remaining ribs. Watch the heat as you are searing – the pot and ribs should not smoke or burn at any point (turn the heat down to medium if this is happening). Once all the ribs have been seared, pour off the fat, then give the pot a good wipe with paper towel.

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onion, green onions, remaining 3 cloves of garlic, remaining 2 tbsp ginger, and chile flakes to the hot oil and sauté for ~5-7 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Add the brown sugar, star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cilantro, sake, soy sauce, red wine, beef stock, and the zest (grated) and juice of the orange. Bring to a boil, then add the seared short ribs back to the pot (submerging them as best you can). Cover with a lid and transfer to the preheated oven. Let the short ribs braise in the oven until they are extremely tender, ~3 ½ hours. Check the liquid every 30 minutes after the first 2 hours to ensure that it is not reducing too rapidly. If the liquid levels go down to the point where the ribs are not submerged, top up with beef stock as needed.

Once the ribs are tender, you have the option of removing them from the liquid, letting them cool, and then covering them tightly and refrigerating overnight. If you choose to instead serve them right away, just remove them from the liquid and keep warm under foil until ready to serve. Either way, strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl and discard the solids.

·      If using that day, return the strained liquid to the large pot and bring to a boil over high heat before reducing to medium and simmering until you have roughly 2 ½ cups of liquid left (~20 minutes). I do suggest that you try to make an effort to spoon off AS MUCH of the layer of fat that is coating the top of the cooking liquid as possible (again, this is so much easier to do if you are refrigerating it overnight).

·      If using tomorrow, pour the strained liquid into a container and cover, refrigerating overnight. The next day, you should have a thick layer of congealed fat covering the cooking liquid. Carefully scrape off and discard that fat, then heat the cooking liquid in a large pot as directed above for the same-day instructions.

Regardless of whether you did a same-day or next-day version of this recipe, the short ribs can be returned to the cooking liquid once it has reduced enough (though the next-day cooks will want to give the ribs extra time in the sauce so as to warm them through completely). Season the whole thing generously with salt and a bit of pepper. Taste it and keep adding salt if you think it needs more.

Transfer the ribs and sauce to a deep serving platter and lavishly scatter the top with extra chopped scallions and a generous sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. My personal preference would be to serve these alongside a mountain of mashed potatoes, but my understanding is that some people actually opt to eat rice over potatoes when given the chance, which seems like madness to my potato-obsessed mind, but march to the beat of your own drum if you must.

Five Spice Short Ribs