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Tony’s Salt & Chilli Ribs

by Cyrus Todiwala, Tony Singh from The Incredible Spice Men

A tasty Chinese inspired salt and chilli ribs recipe. Lip-smacking pork ribs are blended with hot spices before being deep fried in a garlic and chilli batter.

From the book

Cyrus Todiwala, Tony Singh


I made this recipe in a mad competition with our local Chinese restaurant. Me and some friends used to eat their ribs with a few bevvies when we had our card nights, and I boasted that I could make a better version. After a day of working hard in the kitchen I had the perfect recipe, but couldn’t crack the batter. So, head held low, I admitted defeat and asked the restaurant for their secret ingredient – custard powder! You have got to try it, it is out of this world.

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1 kg (2lb 4oz) pork ribs
1 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
1 tbsp garlic purée
300ml (½ pint) white wine
1 tbsp chilli bean sauce (toban)
½ jar char siu sauce
Corn oil, if deep frying
For the dry spice mix:
½ tbsp white peppercorns
1 tbsp Sichuan pepper
4 star anise
3 tsp salt
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp five-spice powder
½ tbsp crushed black pepper
½ tbsp caster sugar
½ tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
For the batter:
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic purée
½ tsp chilli powder
6 tbsp custard powder
6 tsp plain flour
2 tbsp sesame oil, if deep frying
2 tbsp vegetable oil or rapeseed oil, if pan frying
For the garnish:
1 tbsp rapeseed oil or vegetable oil
8 spring onions
3 red chillies
½ red pepper, seeds removed
½ yellow pepper, seeds removed

Essential kit

You will need an ovenproof dish. You will need a deep fryer if deep frying the ribs.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Arrange the pork ribs in a single layer in an ovenproof dish. To create a braising liquor, put 600ml (1 pint) of water in a medium pan, add the bouillon powder, garlic purée, white wine, chilli bean sauce and char siu sauce, and bring to the boil.

Pour the braising liquor over the ribs, cover the dish with a double layer of aluminium foil, and cook in the oven for approximately 2¼ hours, basting a few times throughout.

Meanwhile, make the dry spice mix. Heat a small frying pan and dry-fry the white peppercorns, Sichuan pepper and star anise until they release their aroma. Crush them with a pestle and mortar, then mix with the remaining ingredients. Store in an airtight jar.

When the rib meat is soft yet still well attached to the bone, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the braising liquid. Once cool remove from the liquid to a tray to dry out. Discard the braising liquid.

If you have a deep fryer, heat the corn oil to 165-170°C (330-340°F), and mix together all the batter ingredients to a batter/paste. Ensure the ribs are dry, then cover them with the batter. Deep fry in batches for about 30 seconds or until golden brown and crispy. To pan-fry the ribs instead of deep frying, mix together all the batter ingredients except the sesame oil to create a dusting for the ribs – dust the ribs with this. Heat the vegetable or rapeseed oil in a large frying pan and fry the ribs in batches.

To make the garnish, finely dice the spring onions, chillies and peppers. Heat the oil in a frying pan and briefly sauté all the remaining garnish ingredients. As soon as the ribs and garnish are ready, mix them together in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the reserved dry spice mix to taste. Serve the ribs with extra dry spice mix alongside for sprinkling.


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