Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon xao chua ngot) features tender pork ribs coated with a mouthwatering savory sweet and sour sauce. Serve it with rice for a very satisfying meal.
What is Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs
Sweet and Sour Ribs is in meal rotation of many families in Northern Vietnam. The Vietnamese name is “sườn xào chua ngọt” (or just sườn chua ngọt” for short). I’m not sure if it’s a popular dish in the South or not since I have never stayed there for an extended amount of time.
When I still lived in Vietnam with my family, I often asked my mom to make this mouthwatering dish every week. Yes, the savory sweet and sour sauce makes it so delicious and addictive that no matter how much you have eaten, you still want to eat more.
So each Vietnamese family has their own version of sweet and sour pork ribs. My mom and my uncle and some other families I know often use tomatoes and vinegar as the main ingredients for the sauce.
I used to think that was the only way to cook this dish until I was invited to dinner at my friend’s house in Ninh Binh. Her mom used tamarind to make the sweet and sour sauce and it was absolutely delicious. And in case you don’t know, Ninh Binh is the beautiful province where they recently filmed the Kong: Skull Island movie. Anyway, today I will share with you the version my mom and uncle make, which is also what I’m most familiar with.
Here are the main ingredients for Vietnamese sweet and sour pork ribs: pork ribs, tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, five spice powder, fish sauce, honey (or sugar) and aromatics.
If you can find meaty ribs with small bones, that is perfect. Ask your butcher to cut them into 2-inch long sections. In Vietnam, a lot of home cooks can cut the ribs themselves using a meat cleaver. I use pork spare ribs since they are easy to find at my local farmers market as well as at regular U.S. grocery stores.
I like to use apple cider vinegar to create the tanginess/sourness for the sauce because it’s quite mild and pleasantly sour. If my memory is correct, my family in Vietnam usually uses rice vinegar. Most people use sugar as sweetener for the sauce, but I prefer honey which results in a more glistening sauce.
How to Cook Vietnamese Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs
The first step is to blanch the ribs in boiling water to get rid of impurities and pork smell. After that, we sear them until lightly brown. This step helps improve the texture as well as flavors of the ribs. Then we simmer the ribs in the sauce until they are tender and taste delicious.
In the traditional method to cook this dish, the last step is done on the stove top. For me, I like to let the ribs simmer in the oven. This way, it doesn’t heat up the kitchen or make the house smell. You can do it either way and the dish will be equally tasty.
The amount of vinegar, honey and fish sauce below is entirely customizable to your liking. During the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, you can taste the sauce and the ribs and adjust seasonings to achieve your preferred balance of saltiness, sweetness and sourness.
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I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates.You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.