If you eat these ribs at a Fatty 'Cue location in New York, they'll arrive at your table with a last-second application of the Fish Sauce and Palm Sugar Syrup.
If you prepare this recipe straight from Zakary Pelaccio's "Eat With Your Hands" cookbook, the ribs will arrive at your table after a long smoke during which you’ve mopped on multiple cups of the fishy, sugary glaze. That would be a mistake. To follow orders exactly here is to court trouble: You could caramelize your ribs to an unappetizing shade of black if your fires burn too hot (all too easy during a long smoke). You could also end up with ribs that smell like the Maine Avenue Fish Market. You don’t want that.
Try this modified recipe instead: It reduces the syrup applications to a mere half-cup during the multi-hour smoking process, reserving additional syrup for those bone eaters who want more of that sweet, umami sauce at the dinner table. It’s important to let the ribs sit before digging into them; the glaze is quite potent right off the grill.
You'll need about three bags of pecan wood for the smoker.
Make Ahead: The syrup can be made 2 days in advance, then covered and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before use.
- For the Fish Sauce and Palm Sugar Syrup
- 2 cups palm or dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups fish sauce
- For the ribs
- 1 full rack pork spareribs (at least 10 ribs), membrane removed by your butcher
- Sea salt
- 1/4 cup freshly ground Indonesian long pepper, or black pepper
- 1/2 cup Fish Sauce and Palm Sugar Syrup, plus more for serving
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- 4 fresh Thai bird chilies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
For the syrup: Place the sugar and fish sauce in a medium saucepan. Use a spoon to break up the sugar a little, if necessary. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Let the syrup cool in the saucepan. The yield is 3 cups.
For the ribs: Season the rack generously with salt and pepper, rubbing them into the meat. Transfer the rack to a container large enough to hold it with a little room to spare or to a large resealable plastic food storage bag. Cover the container or seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, preheat the smoker to 200 degrees. Pour 1 cup of the syrup into a small pitcher for passing at the table. Have the saucepan with the remaining syrup nearby.
Transfer the ribs to the smoker. Close the smoker and cook, basting the rack with the syrup on both sides every 45 to 60 minutes, until the meat is perfectly tender, about 4 hours.
Remove the rack from the smoker and brush it with the syrup one last time. Let the rack rest for about 15 minutes, then cut the ribs between the bones. Serve the ribs on a platter, along with bowls of lime wedges and chilies and the reserved syrup.
Adapted from "Eat With Your Hands," by Zakary Pelaccio (Ecco, 2012).
Tested by Tim Carman.
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