Cantonese Sweet & Sour Ribs (Tang Cu Pai Gu)

Tang Cu Pai Gu – The cuisine of south China uses a lot of sweet and sour sauces. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, and fish dishes from Canton are popular, especially with kids, in Chinese restaurants all around the world. Every cuisine has their own version of spare ribs dishes and unique ways of cutting them. Koreans cut their ribs across the bones into 1/4-inch slices for grilled Bulgahlbi, Americans smoke whole racks of ribs and slice between the bones, Eastern European’s cut ribs across the bone into 3-inch slices called Flanken and boil them. Ribs in China are cut between the bones and then across the bones into 2-inch individual pieces and then either deep fried or baked and then sauced. This recipe is for those kind of ribs and can be chopped at home with a heavy cleaver or, better yet, purchased at Asian markets pre-cut. Regular pork ribs can be purchased and cut by a butcher.

Tang Cu Pai Gu - Cantonese Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

Tang Cu Pai Gu – Cantonese Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

These ribs are traditionally deep-fried before the final step of stir-frying them in the sauce. This version instead marinates and boils the ribs to achieve a surprisingly similar taste. They make great appetizers and are a welcome addition to a buffet or party spread.
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Course: Appetizer, Brunch, Hand Food, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: Canton, Chinese, Southern China
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Marinating: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Large saucepan or pot
  • Wok or large skillet
  • Colander


  • lb Spare ribs, cut crossways into 2-inch pieces then siced between the bones
  • 4 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 3 tbsp Light soy sauce
  • 2 inch Ginger root, cut into ½-inch coins
  • 4 stalk Scallions
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 clove Garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Dark soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp Chinkiang rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Sesame oil
  • 2 tsp Cornstarch, dissolved in 5 tbsp water to make a slurry


  • Prepare Ribs – Place ribs in a saucepan or pot. Add in light soy sauce and rice wine. Mix everything together and let marinate 20 minutes. After marinating, strain marinade into a cup, return ribs to pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reserve 1 scallion and 1 slice ginger, and put the rest right into the pot with salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Skim top occasionally. Drain in a colander, pickout scallion and ginger. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Cook Dish – Finely chop garlic and remaining ginger and scallion. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok until smoking hot. Add chopped scallion, ginger, garlic, and reserved marinade. Stir-fry 1 minute. Add sugar, vinegar, dark soy sauce, ketchup, sesame oil, and cornstarch slurry and bring to a boil.
    Add back ribs into the sauce and mix well to heat through. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.


  • Have the butcher from the market cut ribs into 2-inch pieces for you.
  • Dish can be made days in advance and refrigerated or frozen. Microwave to heat.


Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 1003mg | Potassium: 339mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 105IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

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