Japanese Inspired Pork Ribs, Fermented Jicama Salad & Miso Corn

This recipe features two of my favorite ingredients, the first, heritage pork from Rockside Ranch that graze pastures and woodlands and are fed an organic and soy-free diet. The second, fermented foods. Here, the menu is Japanese inspired using a simple marinade of Shio Koji, an age-old Japanese fermented mixture of malted rice, salt and water mixed with the culture  Asperiguillus Oryzae. The enzymes in the shio koji break down proteins and pull out the umami flavor as well as tenderize the meat. Shio koji is both salty and sweet. It’s wonderful on meat and with vegetables, so I use it in both places. The depth of flavor in free range pork combined with the umami of fermented shio koji gives an absolutely delicious end result.

The meat is naturally rich. Accompanied with lots of veggies, I would say 3 pounds of meat easily serves 4 to 6.

Notes:

  • Shio Koji is available on Amazon, in Japanese grocery stores or, you can make your own. CultureforHealth.com for example, shows you how.
  • Read through the recipe before you start. The best way to do ribs is to plan ahead. Marinate for 18 to 24 hours. Oven roast for 3 hours. Chill overnight or for several hours. Finish on the grill or under the broiler. The hands-on time is very minimal making your last minute grill time quick.

Japanese Inspired Baby Back Ribs

  • 1 rack pork spare ribs or baby back ribs, about 2.5 to 3.5 pounds
  • 1/3 cup shio koji
  • apple juice or water
  • 2 onions, each peeled and cut into four wedges

To prepare the ribs:

  1. With ribs, it's best to remove the silver skin, a thin layer of connective tissue that is very tough. On the back side of the ribs (the side without the meat) you will see and opaque paper-thin tissue. At the top, corner edge of the bones, use a sharp knife to release a small piece of the silver skin. Using paper towel to help you grip the silver skin, pull/peel it off the bone. (It will be similar to pulling masking tape off a box). Repeat until you’ve gotten all or most of it off. A little bit left on the bone is fine.

  2. In a glass container, massage the ribs with the shio koji. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate, chilled, for 18 to 24 hours.

  3. When ready to bake, wipe the ribs with paper towel to remove as much of the marinade as possible.

  4. In a baking dish large enough for the ribs to lie flat, scatter the onions to act as a rack for the ribs. Place the ribs on the onions and add enough apple juice or water to create a 1/4-inch pool.

  5. Cover and seal edges with foil and bake for about 2 1/2 hours.

  6. Check the ribs. They should be tender when pierced with a fork but not falling off the bone. They may need another 30 minutes for a total of 3 hours.

  7. I like to bake my ribs a day ahead and chill them. This makes it easy to throw them on the grill for a last minute sear and glaze with the BBQ sauce.  

  8. Remove the ribs from the fridge 20 to 30 minutes before cooking.

  9. Wrap the ends of the exposed bones with foil to keep them from burning.

  10. To grill: follow your grill instructions.

  11. To bake: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Brush both sides of the ribs with BBQ sauce. Place ribs meat side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake ribs for 15 to 20 minutes or just until the ribs are hot. Turn on your broiler and move the ribs to the top third of the oven but not at the very top. Broil just until the sauce is bubbling and has colored slightly. Flip the ribs and finish the second side.

  12. Serve extra, warmed sauce on the side.

Japanese BBQ Sauce ~ makes about 1 pint

  • 2 Tbls. sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup mirin, sherry or apple juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tbls. miso paste, any flavor will do
  • 2 Tbls. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbls. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

To make the sauce:

  1. Heat the sesame oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring garlic in hot oil until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

  2. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice.

  3. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes or until a thick sauce has formed. Be careful not to burn the bottom.

  4. Add the lemon juice to taste.

  5. Use immediately or store in the fridge until needed.

Jicama Cucumber Slaw with Shiso Leaves

This slaw uses the shio koji used on our ribs to marinade the vegetables creating a wonderful texture and flavor. Shiso leaves add a bright, fragrant touch. Shiso leaves can be found in Japanese grocery stores. Substitute with fresh Thai basil, basil, or cilantro.

  • 1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 english cucumber or two Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 Tbls. shio koji
  • 1 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 red or jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, sliced thin, to taste (optional)
  • 4 shiso leaves
  1. Place everything but the shiso leaves in a gallon plastic bag. Remove air, seal, and massage gently to cover all of the vegetables with the liquid. Refrigerate for 20 to 40 minutes.
  2. Drain the liquid. Slice the shiso leaves (or herbs) into thin ribbons and toss with the vegetables. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

Miso Corn

Miso butter can be served room temperature or chilled. It can also be rolled into a log in between plastic wrap and chilled or frozen. Thaw and slice into 1/4-inch “coins” to top grilled chicken, fish, and vegetables.

  • 1/2 cup good quality unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup white miso (any miso will do but I like mild white with corn)
  • corn on the cob
  1. In a small bowl, mash the miso and butter with a fork until blended.
  2. Boil or BBQ the corn and serve the miso butter on the side.