One of the perks of having a mother who works for a meat distribution company are the random acts of
kindness meatiness that occur from time to time. I love it when Mom surprises me with pounds of jumbo shrimp, bags of frozen chicken fingers, or most recently, racks of baby back ribs. With Memorial Day, the official start of the summer grilling season, around the corner, the timing could not have been any more perfect. These racks o’ ribs were destined to meet the heat, Vietnamese-style.
Sườn nướng was a mealtime staple growing up. Not only was it served often on weeknights for dinner, but it also made regular appearances at beachside family gatherings—La Jolla Shores, represent. The ease of prepping and cooking the ribs, as well as their intrinsic deliciousness, made them a standby for every occasion.
Comprised of just five ingredients—fish sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper, and shallots—this easy marinade treats pork to a sweet, salty, and wholly umami bath. Soaked overnight, then grilled over hot flames, the ribs’ exterior caramelizes beautifully, while the innards remain tender and flavorful.
The recipe below produces ribs that are savory enough to pair with a heap of rice, the Vietnamese way, but for those looking to eat their meat straight up, ease up some on the fish sauce and salt.
According to Mom, this is the best marinade ever. And she’s absolutely right.
- 2 to 3 pounds pork ribs, separated
- 2 large shallots, finely minced
- 4 ounces fish sauce (approximately 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 5 ounces granulated sugar (approximately 1/3 cup)
To prepare the marinade, whisk together the shallots, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Transfer the marinade to a gallon-size Ziploc bag, along with the ribs, and let the meat and marinade marry in the refrigerator overnight.
Let the ribs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling. Over medium-high flames, grill the ribs on both sides until slightly charred and fully cooked through, approximately 6 to 10 minutes per side. Optional: brush the ribs with leftover marinade.
Once the ribs are fully cooked, transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes.