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Pressure Cooker Suon Ram Man (Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs)

Time1 hour
YieldsServes 4
A bowl of spare ribs in a rich brown sauce, among bowls of steamed rice, sliced cucumbers and a dish of sliced scallions.
(Lindsay Kreighbaum / For The Times; prop styling by Dorothy Hoover)
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My mom made this dish often while I was growing up, and my favorite part was always spooning the perfectly sweet and savory sauce over hot, steamy jasmine rice — sometimes I wouldn’t even eat the spare ribs! The secret to not making the sauce too cloying is in the nước màu (Vietnamese caramel sauce), which is cooked to the point that it is dark and smoky with a touch of bitterness.

1

Season the spare ribs lightly with salt. Turn a multipurpose electric pressure cooker to the high sauté setting and add the vegetable oil. Once it’s shimmering but not smoking, add a third of the spare ribs and lightly brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a large plate and brown the remaining spare ribs in 2 separate batches.

2

Add the shallots and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until just starting to soften, about 1 minute. Add the coconut water and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Add the caramel, fish sauce and 1 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. Return all of the spare ribs to the pot; the sauce will not cover all of the meat and that is OK. Follow the manufacturer’s guide for locking the lid and set to pressure cook on high for 13 minutes (the cooker will take 10 to 12 minutes to come up to pressure before it begins cooking).

3

After the pressure cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer’s guide for quick release and wait until the pressure is fully released; unlock and remove the lid. Skim off any excess fat that is at the top of the sauce, then switch to the high sauté setting. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until it is reduced by about a third and slightly thickened, about 15 minutes, gently stirring the meat occasionally. Remove and reserve 12 ounces of the ribs for the Bun Bowls With Sautéed Cabbage, Mushrooms and Spare Ribs recipe.

4

Transfer the rest of the ribs and sauce to a large serving dish and sprinkle with more black pepper and the sliced scallions. Serve immediately alongside steamed jasmine rice and sliced cucumbers.

Nước Màu (Vietnamese Caramel Sauce)

1

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and place over medium heat. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Stop stirring and continue to cook the syrup, swirling the pan occasionally, until it darkens to a deep, dark brown hue similar to soy sauce and the mixture is beginning to smoke, 7 to 10 minutes.

2

Immediately turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the hot stove top. Carefully pour in 2 tablespoons of water (the mixture will sputter). Use a heat-safe rubber spatula to stir the caramel until completely smooth. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of water, then transfer the caramel to a small, heat-proof bowl.

3

Let the caramel cool to room temperature (it will thicken as it cools), then cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 5 days. Return to room temperature before using.