Chinese 5-spice powder has been a staple in Asian cooking for centuries. Most commonly used in “flavor potting”, where meat is submersed in a rich sauce and slowly simmered for hours, this spice was called such not because of the 5 spices in it but for the 5 elements of human kind. Wood, fire, earth, metal and water are manifested within the human body, according to traditional Chinese medicine, and must be kept in check, otherwise sickness and ill-health is sure to follow.
Regardless of this believe, I believe you should either buy this spice and keep it on hand or simply make it yourself. All the ingredients are easily obtainable with the exception of Szechwan Pepper. Many health food stores(including the Natural Living Center in Bangor) carry Szechwan Peppercorns in bulk.
1 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. apple juice or cider
1/2 c. cider vinegar
2 t. red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 t. 5-spice powder
1 t. powdered ginger(or 1 T. minced fresh)
2 t. minced garlic in oil
5-6 lbs. beef short ribs, with or without bones
To Prepare the Sauce:
In a small saucepan combine all the ingredients with the exception of the ribs. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar, but do not boil. Remove the marinade from the heat and let it cool. Set it aside until you are ready to marinate the ribs.
To Barbecue the Ribs:
Two hours before your barbecue, spread the ribs out in a roasting pan, large enough to hold them in a single layer. You may need to divide the ribs between two pans. Pour the sauce over the ribs, making sure all the meat is well covered. Turn and rub the ribs with sauce several times during the marinating period. It is not necessary to refrigerate the ribs. When the fire is ready, position the rack 3 inches above the heat source. Remove the ribs from the marinade and reserve the marinade in a bowl or pitcher, including any excess scraped off the ribs. Place the ribs on the grill and cook for 10 minutes each side. Spoon on the reserved marinade a little at a time after each turn. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn and baste the second side. Continue turning and basting every 5 minutes until the ribs are done, 30 to 40 minutes. The meat should be slightly pink on the inside and crusty brown on the outside.
If it were me at this barbecue party, I would serve these ribs with Rice Molds. Let me show you how easy it is. Make rice molds by simply pressing cooked rice into 1/3-cup-size buttered ramekins or comparable single serving bowls, then steaming them in an inch of water for about 10 minutes before unmolding and serving. Add some of the marinade to the unmolded cooked rice plus 2 tablespoons each of minced green onion and slivered toasted almonds.
Want to make your own Chinese 5-Spice Powder?
1 1/2 T. star anise
2 1/2 t. fennel seeds
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. Szechwan peppercorns
1/2 t. cloves
Put all in a blender or coffee grinder and have at it until powdered in form.