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Five-Spice Riblets With Sticky Rice and Apple Slaw

Recipe excerpted from 'Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Meals' by Carolynn Carreño

I call these ribs “candied meat” because they’re so sticky and sweet. I adapted the recipe from one my friend Susan Spungen, who worked for Martha Stewart Living for years (and who also beautifully styled the food in this book), published in one of the books she did with Martha. Have your butcher split the ribs down the middle so you can make bite-size riblets. If you buy your ribs at the grocery store with no butcher to be seen, it won’t be the end of the world—you’ll just have longer ribs to gnaw on. I serve the riblets with a refreshing rice and apple slaw, but if you prefer a hot entrée, serve them over Ginger Scallion Rice (recipe in book) or plain brown rice and a green vegetable. This bowl is the perfect example of serving meat as a side dish. 

Recipe excerpted from Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Meals by Carolynn Carreño. Click here to purchase your own copy.


For the Ribs

  • 1 rack baby back ribs, sawed in half down the middle into riblets
  • 1/2 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 Cup sambal oelek (or another Asian chile garlic paste)
  • 1/2 Cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 Cup molasses
  • 1/2 Teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 2 Teaspoons kosher salt
  • toasted white sesame seeds, for sprinkling

For the Sticky Rice and Apple Slaw

  • 1/2 Cup canola oil
  • 1/2 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 Teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 Cups short-grain brown rice, cooked (or about 2 cups cooked rice)
  • 1/2 head napa or green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 1 Cup sugar snap peas (or snow peas), very thinly sliced on an angle
  • 4 radishes, trimmed, scrubbed, and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, halved, cored, and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 (3 or 4-ounce) package pea shoots or pea shoot flowers (available at grocery stores), stems pinched off (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (white, black, or both)


For the Ribs

Cut between each bone to create individual riblets.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, sambal, 1/4 cup of the maple syrup, and 1/4 cup of the molasses in a glass or ceramic baking dish or zip-top bag. Add the ribs and turn to coat them with the marinade. Cover the baking dish or close the bag and put the ribs in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.

Adjust the oven racks so one is in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F. To make easy cleanup, line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Make sure there are no tears or open seams in the lining; otherwise, the sticky stuff will leak onto the baking dish, which will cause the foil to stick to it.

Remove the ribs from the marinade and put them bone-side down on the foil-lined baking sheet. Pour the marinade over them and season the sides facing up with the five-spice powder and salt. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake the ribs for 1 1/4 hours. While the ribs are cooking, stir the remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup and molasses together in a small bowl. Remove the ribs from the oven and remove the foil; be careful, as steam will rise from the pan.

Increase the oven temperature to 400 F.

Baste the ribs with the maple-molasses mixture and return them to the oven, uncovered. Bake until they are sticky and glazed looking, turning the ribs with tongs to coat them in the liquid a few times during the process; this will take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how much liquid is in the pan. Keep an eye on it, as the liquid can go from sticky and delicious to burnt pretty quickly.

To serve, pile the slaw into four or more bowls. Remove the ribs from the oven and serve them piled up on the bowls of slaw. Sprinkle the ribs with sesame seeds and serve.

For the Sticky Rice and Apple Slaw

Combine the canola oil, vinegar, honey, sesame oil, and salt in a small jar, close the jar, and shake it vigorously to combine. (Alternatively, whisk everything together in a small bowl.)

Put the rice in a big bowl. Add the cabbage, sugar snap peas, radishes, apple, pea shoots, and sesame seeds. Drizzle half the dressing over the slaw and toss to mix everything together. Add more dressing if you think the slaw needs it.