Ribs and spice paste:
- 4 racks true baby back ribs (each 3/4 to 1 pound) or 2 racks American baby back ribs (each 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), see cook’s notes
- 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce or more soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 4 teaspoons ground white pepper
- 4 juicy limes, cut in half
Cook’s notes: There once was a time when baby back ribs really were “baby.” They came from Denmark, and the racks were so tender and small (three quarters to 1 pound), you could grill them directly like pork chops. This is the sort of baby backs you find in Cambodia. You can also grill full-size American baby backs this way, but you need to cut each rack in half before grilling.
1. Prepare ribs and spice paste: If necessary, remove the thin papery membrane from the back of each rack of ribs – some stores sell ribs with this removed. If you are using the larger racks of ribs, cut each in half. Place ribs in nonreactive baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer.
2. Place garlic, ginger, sugar, 1 tablespoon salt and black pepper in mortar and pound to a paste with pestle (or use a food processor). Work in the honey, soy sauce and fish sauce. Spread paste over the ribs on both sides. Refrigerate, covered, 1 to 4 hours; the longer the ribs marinate, the richer the flavor will be.
3. Prepare the ingredients for dipping sauce: Place 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon white pepper in neat mounds side by side in each of 4 tiny bowls for the dipping sauce. Place 2 lime halves next to each bowl.
4. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium.
5. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place ribs, bone side down, on hot grate and grill until golden brown and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes per side, a little longer for full-size ribs. Watch for flare-ups. Should they occur, move the ribs to another section of the grill. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch.
6. Transfer the racks of ribs to a cutting board and cut them into individual ribs, then arrange them on a platter or plates for serving. Just before eating, instruct your guests to squeeze 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice into their bowls of salt and pepper and stir with chopsticks until mixed. Dip each rib into the sauce before eating.
Recipe courtesy of: “Steven Raichlen’s Planet Barbecue!” by Steven Raichlen