BBQ Ribs That Taste Like Phở

Yeah, you heard me. These ribs taste like drinking a hot, healing bowl of phở. Except it’s summer, and you’re sitting in a lawn chair with a cold beer, and also there’s no soup.

Now, I require a bowl of phở at least once per month—and that’s a conservative estimate. Something about the combination of lemongrass, fish sauce and sambal oelek (a better, more garlic-y chili sauce than Sriracha, IMO) feels immediately comforting. Phở will cure your ailments. In fact, it’ll make sure you don’t get sick in the first place.

So imagine that, but barbecued.

There’s nothing “authentic” about these ribs, but grilled pork is still a big part of the cuisine. And with the marinade, which infuses beautifully into the meat after just two hours (or overnight if you’re thinking ahead), the taste is unmistakably Vietnamese, too.

Lightly charred and just the right amount of spicy, these ribs will turn some heads. But you don’t need to confine yourself to the summertime—David Tanis at the New York Times, whose recipe influenced ours, makes a convincing case for braising the ribs in the oven. We’ve done it his way before, and the meat literally falls off the bone.

Want a side to impress your guests? Pair these ribs with a rice vinegar and cabbage slaw.

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Vietnamese-Flavored Pork Ribs

  • 4 pounds baby back ribs
  • 2 shallots, thinly chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, lightly smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hot chile paste (sambal oelek is the move)
  • 2 scallions for garnish

Make the marinade first. Combine the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger, salt, brown sugar, five-spice, soy sauce, fish sauce and hot chile paste in a small bowl. Mix together.

(Taste your sauce! If the marinade doesn’t taste quite right yet, it’s easily adjusted. Too spicy? A little more brown sugar. Not enough salt? A little more fish sauce.)

In a deep dish, place the ribs and cover with marinade. You may have to cut up the ribs into smaller racks, or place into multiple dishes. Coat the ribs thoroughly, and cover. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.

When it’s time to grill, the name of the game is “low and slow.” Preheat the grill to 300 degrees. While the grill warms up, let the ribs come back to room (or backyard) temperature.

Place the ribs on the grill, saving the marinade in the dish. Grill the ribs for one hour, basting occasionally with the leftover marinade.

The ribs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees, with a light char on the outside. Transfer the ribs to a plate and let sit for about five minutes before dividing the ribs with a sharp knife.

Serve with a garnish of scallions—and don’t you dare put BBQ sauce on it.

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