Steamed Ribs at Cafe Orient

Steamed Ribs at The Cafe Orient in Ottawa’s Chinatown

Steamed Ribs in some form or another are almost always to be found on the menu in Dim Sum Houses, and the classic form, Pork Ribs Steamed with Salted Black Bean , is the most commonly served variety. The dish is not only something I frequently order when I go out for Dim Sum, but is one I often prepare for myself. In all honesty, though, I don’t think I have ever made them as well as the ones I enjoyed at the Cafe Orient in Ottawa’s Chinatown.

It really doesn’t matter what flavorings you add to steamed pork ribs, the quality of the dish will always depend on the skill used in preparing the ribs and actually steaming them. Here at the Café Orient, the ribs were coated with corn starch, as is pretty standard. This helps keep thicken the juices that are thrown off during cooking so as to form a nice sauce, and it also improves the texture of the ribs themselves.

One thing I find with the steamed ribs in many Dim Sum restaurants is that they are either over-steamed, or else held for too long at high heat, and, consequently, lose their texture and much of their flavor. The Café Orient managed to get theirs to my table in an almost perfect state, with the meat still nicely chewy to the bite, but yet succulently tender.

The second reason that the steamed ribs at Café Orient were a hit was that they were very deft with the flavoring. A lot of restaurants use commercially prepared Black Bean Sauce when making this dish and I generally find that this product is a bit too strongly flavored for the delicate taste of the ribs, especially when too much of it is used. The result is much better when the whole beans, or slightly mashed ones are used, which is how they were done here. There was sliced garlic clove in with the ribs, which added a nice touch, and the black beans were added in just the right amount so that their flavor came through but was a background, and not a dominant taste. As I say, I don’t think I have ever made better.

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!