Braised Beef Short Ribs Asian Style

While the nights may be getting longer, the miserable weather which fills them calls for slow cooking. Now with a recipe which is best done over two days, the climate may have improved by day two, but it's a risk worth taking.

While in St Andrews recently I popped into Balgove farm shop. Their prices are eye-poppingly expensive, but their butchery counter has a whole host of cuts which are not seen that commonly. In this place I hesitate to say cheap cuts, but all things are relative.

Anyway, some oxtail was purchased and a very good stew made. I see that it's some seven years since I published the recipe. A labour of love, but well worth it. I also bought some beef short ribs, simply because I'd never cooked them before, and had no plan. Most of the recipes which I found involved braising in red wine with tomatoes and the usual veg and herbs. All very fine, but I cook quite a lot of stuff this way, largely because it's tried and tested. Today's feast is adapted from another recipe I found.

Two days to cook? Yes, that is slow. And of course you can do the whole thing in a day, but I will defend my method. Firstly, you are allowing even more time for the flavours to get to know each other, a vital principle in slow cooking. Secondly, you can deal with the fat much much better.

With this style of cooking you have two main things to consider. You have to make sure your meat is absolutely tender. (In the case of oxtail I stipulate five hours braising time.) You then have quite a lot of very tasty liquid which has to be converted into gravy of your required consistency. Meat swimming in a pool of watery liquid is one of my pet hates. After stage 1 the books will tell you to skim off the fat, of which there will be loads.. I've never been successful at that when the braise is still liquid.

What you do is to remove the chunks of meat from your pan. Let the liquid cool, then refrigerate overnight. The following day you will have a nice flat layer of solidified fat which is very easy to remove. Were you to leave the meat in, the exercise would be akin to scraping the snow off a mountain range.

With this being an Asian recipe, I was surprised there was no heat. I guess you could add a chilli or two, but I would leave them whole, possibly just pricked once or twice. That way you get more flavour but less heat. This recipe suggests chopped red chilli as garnish. I was doubtful, but it really worked. Chop your chillies quite thinly, but leave the seeds in.

This will serve two very greedy people or 3 - 4 if you have side dishes. I don't know what the normal butcher's practice is. The ribs I bought were in four pieces, each about 16cm by 8cm, weight of 1.1kg. Very easy to scale up. You will need a heavy pan with a good lid, or a large roasting tray and plenty of foil to seal.


About 1kg short beef ribs (see above); 2 large onions, sliced; chunk of ginger (about 4cm), peeled and grated; 4 cloves of garlic, crushed; 1½ tsp Chinese 5 spice powder; 5 - 6 tbsp hoisin sauce; 2 tbsp dark soy sauce; 1 tbsp brown sugar (I used dark, but it doesn't matter); 1 cinnamon stick; 4 star anise; 800ml chicken stock; veg oil for browning.

To garnish

Chopped fresh coriander; thinly sliced red chilli (both optional).


If you have prepped your veg at the start, preheat your oven to 160˚C/Mark 3. Otherwise switch it on once you've browned the meat. Brown the ribs on all sides (remembering they have 6). Don't overcrowd your pan. You may have to do this in batches. Don't make the mistake I used to make of having the oil TOO hot. If you do, it will go black and you'll have to clean the pan. The idea is to be using the beef fat to soften the onions and retain as much flavour as possible.

Remove the ribs from the pan and add the onion, ginger and garlic. Soften the onions, making sure the ginger and garlic don't burn. Coat with the 5 spice powder and cook for another minute before adding the stock, the hoi sin, soy, cinnamon and star anise. Briing the mixture to a bubble and replace the ribs.

As there won't be enough liquid completely to cover the meat, there is a risk that the exposed bits might dry out, even with a lid. You could turn them every 45 minutes or so, but better still use a cartouche. This is a circle of grease proof paper which sits on top of your braise. It has a small hole in the centre to let steam out. To learn how to make one, watch this short video.

So you've popped on your cartouche. Add a tight fitting lid and stick the pan in the oven for 2½ - 3 hours. No need for regular stirring because of your nifty French invention. You're ready to go to the next stage when the meat is falling off the bone and can be separated with two forks. Take out of the oven and put the ribs in a separate dish. When everything has cooled, refrigerate overnight. In the morning, your pan will look like the illustration above. When the fat looks as though you could skate on it, it's easy peasy to remove. A slotted spoon is best.

When you've removed the fat, reduce the liquid over a high heat to get to your desired consistency, then pop the ribs back in to heat through.

For garnish, fresh coriander is quite common and/or chopped red chillies. I served with rice and steamed pak choi. This recipe is even nicer in real life than it reads on paper.


  1. Aleta Walker on 23rd February 2024 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you Tom. Eddie (the carnivore) will be enjoying your recipe soon.

    • Tom Johnston on 23rd February 2024 at 6:29 pm

      Hope he enjoys it.

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