Tweaking a Recipe: Pork Ribs Braised in Fish Sauce (Sườn Ram)

We received a wonderful cookbook (Quintessential: Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine) from Helga earlier this year, but we hadn’t gotten around to actually cooking from it until now. Wicca used the Pork Ribs Braised in Fish Sauce (Sườn Ram) recipe as a base, then tweaked it to suit her palate. We didn’t really intend to post this as a full recipe at the time, so I don’t have photos of the ingredients, prep, etc, but I hope this will inspire you anyways! Just check out the Instagram posts that I did that night. It was delicious!

Wicca’s tweaked recipe is below. Enjoy!


This is the cookbook, Quintessential: Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine, published by the Children of Vietnam Benevolent Foundation (Facebook page). They’re based in Alberta and do REAL tangible work in Vietnam helping out orphanages there. More info about the cookbook here. You can email them through their website to order a copy.


This is a very timely book because of what’s happening in the news with the Syrian refugees. This cookbook is the product of a charitable organization whose members were Vietnamese refugees (“boat people”) who came to Canada in the 70s and 80s.


I like the part in the back where they show examples of all the ingredients — because it’s one thing to list “glutinous rice flour” in a recipe but a whole other level to actually show the package. Very helpful.


These are all family recipes…things that Vietnamese families actually cook! I still want to attempt this Coconut Pandan Waffle recipe someday… 🙂

Pork Ribs Braised in Fish Sauce (Suon Ram)

(Based on a recipe from Quintessential: Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine.)


  • 2.5 lbs of pork ribs cut into 4cm pieces (aka spareribs)
  • 1-2 large shallots (minced)
  • 3/4 can Coco Rico coconut soda (you can substitute coconut water or even plain water)
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar (granulated palm sugar is much easier to use, if you can find it!)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 generous tsp tamarind paste (you can add it to the fish sauce to make it easier to add later on)
  • 1 tbsp Korean chili flakes (the coarse kind)
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • cooking oil (canola, corn, peanut, whatever you like except olive oil)

Marinade pork ribs with the following for at least 30 minutes:

  • 3-4 tbsp fish sauce (enough to coat the ribs)
  • 2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 tbsp ginger (finely minced or microplaned)
  • 2 tbsp shallots (minced)
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • ground black pepper, to taste


  • In a wok using medium heat, cook half the shallots in oil until golden, then brown half of the ribs with the shallots, then transfer contents onto a plate.
  • Do the same with the other half of the shallots and ribs, then add the ribs from the plate back into the wok. (We get better caramelization by splitting it into two batches. Unless you have a monster wok and mega-BTUs.)
  • Add the Coco Rico to deglaze the wok.
  • Add palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind paste, chili flakes, oyster sauce. (This is where you can customize the recipe to your taste! Add whatever you like! I trust your experience and instincts!)
  • Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer at medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Cook uncovered at higher heat to reduce the liquid until glossy and caramelized (be careful not to let it burn).
  • Serve with rice!



Towards the end of the cooking process…reducing the liquid. Wicca reduced it until it got all shiny and clung to the spareribs.


The finished product. Yum! We love how the shallots dissolved into the sauce. Like a symphony where it builds into a harmony rather than hearing specific, individual notes. Make sense? 😉


Rice is a MUST!


This is classic Vietnamese cooking where the meat is strongly flavoured and eaten with copious amounts of rice, to make the precious meat go a long way.

We might make it a touch less sweet next time (the Coco Rico coconut soda already contains sugar), but trust your sense of taste and tweak it how you like!

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