I grew up in a Paradise, California, where we were the first and only Chinese family in the 1950’s. Our family is Hakka (translates to guest family in Chinese.) I didn’t understand what “Hakka” meant, in spite of my grandmother’s efforts to educate us in our Chinese history. I had more memories of what we ate than our Chinese lessons. It wasn’t until decades later, when I wrote "The Hakka Cookbook," did I understand my Hakka identity, history, and cuisine. The Hakka had a long unique history of migration and learned to adapt and survive where others failed. Eventually many Hakka, like my family, settled in southern China, living alongside the Cantonese so some of our dishes are similar. I grew up with these foods. When we smelled the pungent aroma of the moist steam wafting through the kitchen we knew Mom was cooking Black Bean Spareribs for dinner. In a deep pie pan, she coated chunks of meaty pork spareribs in a dark sauce of fermented black beans, garlic, and ginger. Then she steamed the dish on a rack in wok over boiling water, covered, until the meat was tender. We spooned the plentiful savory juices over bowls of hot rice. I think most Cantonese versions of this dish served at dim sum restaurants pale compared to this dark, earthy Hakka version. Shop at an Asian market for the fermented black beans and the spareribs, sawed in bite-sized pieces. Or if you like, substitute boned pork butt, cut in 1 inch chunks for the spareribs. For a shortcut, eliminate the black beans, garlic, and soy sauce and substitute 2 tablespoons purchased Chinese black bean garlic sauce.
1. Trim off and discard any large pads of surface fat off the meat. Cut the ribs apart
between the bones. Place the pork in a rimmed dish that will fit in your steamer such as a
9-inch pyrex pie pan or shallow bowl.
2. In a small bowl, mix the black beans, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, wine, and cornstarch.
Add to the spareribs and mix to coat the meat.
3. Set the dish on a steaming rack or bamboo steaming basket over 2 to 4 inches boiling
water in a steamer base or deep pan (at least 1 inch wider than dish) or wok (if wok
bottom is round, place on a wok ring to stabilize). If steamer lid is metal, drape a piece of
foil over dish to reduce condensation dripping on food. Cover and steam over high heat
for 40 minutes. Turn ribs over and continue steaming until the meat is tender when
pierced, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Watch the water level, adding more boiling water as
needed. Turn off heat. Carefully remove dish from the steamer. Skim off and discard fat
from pan juices. Sprinkle with the green onions and serve.