Pork back ribs with Chinese 5-spice date sauce and a spicy apple sauce

By Mary Tang
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  • 1 rack of pork back ribs, cut into 5 centimeter pieces (about 900 grams)
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to season

Braising liquid for the ribs:

  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice (1 orange)
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest (1 orange)
  • 8 whole garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 lemon grass stalks, cut into 5 centimeter pieces and smashed
  • 1 piece of ginger, peeled (about 2 x 2.5 centimeter piece)

Date sauce:

  • 7 dates, with the pits removed
  • 1/2 cup of hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper

Apple sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of store-bought unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes


  1. Remove the silver lining on the ribs. Cut the ribs into a few large pieces to fit into the Instant Pot. Do not cut between each rib at this time.
  2. Prepare all the ingredients specified in the above list. 


  1. Add the ribs to the Instant Pot and place all ingredients of the braising liquid on the ribs. It is okay that the liquid does not submerge the ribs completely.
  2. Turn the knob to “sealing”, and press “manual” and adjust the time to 12 minutes at high pressure. When the 12 minutes is up on the timer, turn the Instant Pot off, and wait ten minutes for natural release, and turn the knob from “sealing” to “venting”. Place the ribs on a sheet pan. The liquid can be discarded or cooked down for other uses.
  3. Cut between each rib and place the cut ribs evenly on the pan. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Broil the ribs on high for five minutes. Remove and set aside. 
  5. *If you do not have an Instant Pot, double the amount of braising liquid specified and simmer the ribs in a large pot for at least 45 minutes or until tender. 

Date sauce:

  1. Soak the dates in water for about one minute to soften. Remove the dates from the water, and remove the pit.
  2. Add the dates and hot water into a blender and blend the mixture until it becomes a paste. Taste and adjust. Add more dates if you would like the sauce sweeter. Add more water for a thinner consistency.
  3. Remove the paste into a bowl and add the Chinese 5 spice and black pepper. Mix well. 

Spicy apple sauce:

  1. In a pot, add the unsweetened apple sauce, cinnamon and red pepper flakes. Cook for one minute to evaporate some of the liquid. 


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