Flirting with Danger: Thai Sour Cured Pork Ribs with Brett Beer

Kin Kao on Commercial Drive was the first Thai restaurant in Vancouver to serve Sour Cured Pork Ribs that are fermented with cooked rice for a few days then deep fried. I love the sour tang (similar to flavours in some kinds of charcuterie), and it’s excellent with beer! (You can read my review of Kin Kao here.)

Recently, Longtail Kitchen started serving their own version that had a more pronounced sour tang:

I like both Kin Kao and Longtail Kitchen versions, but when I read Alexandra Gill’s review of Kin Kao, she mentioned that the sour ribs lacked a funkiness that you get in true Thai sour ribs that are fermented outdoors and exposed to wild yeasts/bacteria/etc. I was naturally intrigued and wanted to see if I could make my own version and somehow (safely) incorporate a funky, wild element.

DISCLAIMER: I used this Thai Soured Pork Ribs recipe from She Simmers blog. Please read her recipe carefully before attempting, and please understand all the risks, which could include:

  • vomiting
  • uncontrolled diarrhea
  • cramping, bloating, farting
  • the best tangy, funky deep fried ribs you’ve ever tasted

I also consulted this other recipe for comparison sake. It lists wildy different ratios, so I had to take a chance with the quantities. Ultimately, I leave it in your hands whether you want to attempt this recipe and I’m not taking any responsiblity for your possible misfortune. Ok?

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I raided my beer fridge for a beer that would be a good candidate for contributing some funky wild yeast to the recipe. I chose this Steamworks/New Belgium collaboration beer, Rollin’ Golden Belgian Ale, which was brewed with chilies, szechuan peppercorns and Brettanomyces yeast. I wasn’t a huge fan of this beer when I drank it straight (without pairing with food), so I was willing to sacrifice some of it for this pork rib experiment 😉

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The goods:

1 lb pork ribs (rinsed with water then dried with paper towel)
1/2 tbsp table salt
a bunch of garlic, tortured through a garlic press
1/2 cup cooked white rice
dregs from beer

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These pork ribs from T&T were on sale, and I could see why. They were the definition of “mangy”. If I ever go to the trouble of cooking this again, I’ll choose better-quality ribs.

The She Simmers recipe said to wash the ribs with water. I never wash any of my meat under the tap because it actually just sprays surface bacteria all over your kitchen and yourself. I made a careful exception this time because I was going to be fermenting this at room temperature for 3 days, and wanted to minimize any risky bacteria that might already be on the meat.

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Dregs from Rollin’ Golden Belgian Ale. If you’re interested in sourcing your own dregs, I recommend reading Harvesting Sour Beer Bottle Dregs to get a more accurate idea of which beers might have actual live cultures inside. I wasn’t 100% sure if the goodies in this beer were still “active”, but I thought that in combination with the rice, some funky fermentation should happen.

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The ribs, cooked rice, salt, garlic and beer all mixed up.

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Looks a bit strange, but the use of rice reminded me of how my grandmother would make teem jow (Chinese sweet rice wine/fermented rice) in clay pots using cooked rice. These pots would just be sitting in her basement and she would jar it when it was done fermenting enough and we’d eat it like a sweet rice dessert. I have no idea how much actual alcohol her stuff contained. If you’re curious, this recipe for fermented rice from “Madame Huang” is great.

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Packed in a ziplock bag. I just used my mouth to suck out all the air (not recommended).

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I stuck this in the basement to ferment at room temperature. These bags are actually quite porous on a microscopic level cuz I could smell the garlic flooding the basement the next day. I ended up triple-bagging this and I could still smell the garlic.

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Checking on the progress after 3 days. Didn’t look that much different. Maybe a hint of sour smell developing. No green mold, which the recipe talks about but says is safe to eat.

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I microwaved a piece to test the sourness level (as recommended by the She Simmers recipe). I was really liking how this was going but wanted an even more sour and fermented quality so I let it ferment a couple more days (so 5 days total), then stuck it in the fridge for 2 more days after that until I was ready to cook them.

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So after a total of 7 days fermentation (5 at room temperature, 2 in the fridge), I was ready to deep fry these pork ribs and stare Satan in the face. Satan, in this case, smells a bit like cheese ‘n socks.

The recipe said that I could leave all the rice stuck onto the ribs because it forms a crunchy crust when it deep fries.

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I made sure to deep fry the shit out of these ribs, just to make sure that any bad bacteria would be killed. Of course this is powerless against bacteria that can survive high temperatures, but I was willing to take the risk for something delicious!

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Thai Sour Cured Pork Ribs. I’d say these were a success!

The ribs came out a bit dark…I had the oil around 360°F, which dipped to around 320°F after adding a few ribs at a time, with an average cooking temperature of ~340°F.

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I served them with ultra-fine julienne of ginger and some cilantro, just to offset the porkiness and fermentedness.

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Fist pump!

I didn’t get violently ill or have massive diarrhea! The sourness level was less than Longtail Kitchen’s version, but I got a nice funkiness, possibly from the addition of the beer dregs. I finished off this whole plate in one sitting with multiple beers (Brassneck Wingman and Yellow Dog Belgian IPA from the Brews Brothers box). I was celebrating with each bite. Wicca wasn’t having any of it. 😛

PS. If you want to try this at home yourself but want a less risky method, you can try using these commercially-available “nam” powders. I haven’t had any luck finding these in Vancouver yet, but they might have them at Asia Market on Hastings near Main St. (yup, near that intersection).

One thought on “Flirting with Danger: Thai Sour Cured Pork Ribs with Brett Beer”

  1. I’ve made these a couple times from the recipe in David Thompson’s Thai Street Food. Man, so delicious. Sour and salty is really where my palate is at most of the time. I’ll be sure to pair a better beer with them next round. Cheers!

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