Vietnamese-Style Grilled Lemongrass Pork Riblets (Suon Nuong Sa)

  • Preparation: 25 mins
  • Cooking: 25 mins
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Servings: 4-6

Description Vietnamese-Style Grilled Lemongrass Pork Riblets (Sườn Nướng Sả)

Vietnamese-Style Grilled Lemongrass Pork Riblets (Suon Nuong Sa): These addictive bite-sized riblets are perfumed by lemongrass, and the addition of caramel sauce to the marinade - a trick of the trade often used by food vendors in Vietnamese Cuisine - imparts deep color and flavor. Honey is a fine substitute that results in a slightly sweeter finish.
Removing the tough membrane from the underside of the rack (a technique borrowed from American barbecue masters) and a long marinade yield riblets that are chewy-tender.
The rack of spareribs must be cut through the bone into long strips. Don’t attempt this yourself. Instead, ask your butcher to do it. Serve the riblets as an appetizer or with rice for a satisfying meal. For a Viet twist on the classic American barbecue, pair the ribs with Grilled Corn with Scallion Oil and a green salad or Russian Beet, Potato, and Carrot Salad.


  • 3½ to 4 pounds meaty pork spareribs, cut crosswise through the bone into long strips about 2 inches wide
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, chopped (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Caramel Sauce or honey
  • 2 tablespoons light (regular) soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 2 medium or 1 hefty stalk lemongrass, trimmed and minced (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 1 small English cucumber or 2 pickling (Kirby) cucumbers, halved lengthwise and sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 or 2 Thai or serrano chiles, thinly sliced
  • Light (regular) soy sauce for serving

Method Vietnamese-Style Grilled Lemongrass Pork Riblets (Sườn Nướng Sả)

1, Starting from one end, remove the tough white membrane from the underside of each rib strip: Slide the tip of a knife underneath the membrane that lies between 2 rib bones, lift it up and cut it.
Then, use a pair of pliers or a dish towel to grab the membrane and pull it away from the ribs. Several pulls may be required to remove it all. Trim any small membrane patches that remain with a knife. When done, remove as much fat from the rib strips as you like. Cut each strip between the bones or cartilage into individual riblets.
2, To make the marinade, combine the garlic, shallot, brown sugar, and pepper in a mortar and pound to a rough paste. (Or, use an electric mini-chopper.) Transfer to a large bowl and add the caramel sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, oil, and lemongrass, mixing well. Add the riblets to the marinade and mix well to coat all surfaces. Your hand is the best tool for this. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
3, Thirty minutes before cooking, remove the bowl from the refrigerator. For the best flavor, grill the riblets. Prepare a medium charcoal fire (you can hold your hand over the rack for only 4 to 5 seconds) or preheat a gas grill to medium. Alternatively, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 475°F. Arrange the riblets on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet for roasting. (The riblets taste nearly as good oven roasted as they do grilled.)
4, Arrange the riblets on the grill rack, or slip the baking sheet into the oven. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until browned and a little charred on the edges. Extra-thick pieces will require a little more time. Monitor the ribs closely as they cook, turning them over or moving them around (if you are grilling) to ensure even cooking and prevent burning.
5, Transfer the riblets to a serving platter. Garnish with the cucumber or serve it alongside. At the table, let diners craft their own dipping sauce by muddling some chiles in a little soy sauce. Feel free to use fingers for eating.

Chef's Note

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