Chinese-Style Baby Back Ribs with Ginger-Scallion Barbecue Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Where I come from, we don’t really call baby back ribs barbecue. I was appalled, for example, when they allowed them to be entered in the Rib Division of the Memphis in May International Barbecue Championship. Baby backs are cut from a different place on the hog than real ribs, closer to the spine and therefore more tender. And, in my humble opinion, they don’t have nearly the flavor of the spareribs that lie under the belly, from which bacon is made. But, tirades aside, I must admit that baby backs can be seriously delicious food, if not true barbecue. The best baby backs I’ve ever had have been in Chinese restaurants, so here I put them through a rigorous Asian flavor treatment, with a sweet and aromatic soy-spice rub and a dipping sauce that reminds me of the thick quasi-Polynesian teriyaki-style sauces of Chinese restaurants.

Serves4 as Entrée, 8 as Appetizer

Cooking Methodbarbecuing, grilling


Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Courseappetizer, main course


Five Ingredients or LessYes


Taste and Texturemeaty, savory, sharp, smoky, spiced, sweet, umami


  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly cracked white pepper (or substitute black pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons five spice powder
  • 4 racks baby back ribs (each rack about 1½ pounds)
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup minced scallions (white and green parts)


  1. Build a small fire in one half of a covered grill. Let the fuel become completely engulfed in flames, then wait a few minutes for the fire to bum down somewhat.

  2. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, and five-spice powder and mix well. Generously coat the ribs with this mixture and place them on the half of the grill without the fire under it. Put the cover on the cooker and vent slightly. Cook for 45 minutes, feeding the fire once in the middle of this period to keep it going. Flip the ribs and cook them an additional 45 minutes, again feeding the fire once. To check for doneness cut into one of the ribs; there should be no pink in the center.

  3. While you are cooking the ribs, make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the scallions and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced by about one half; it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the sauce from the heat, cool for a few minutes, and stir in the scallions.

  4. Remove the ribs from the fire and serve brushed with the sauce, or with the sauce on the side for dipping.


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