Malaysians love their pork. Nowhere is this more true than in Sarawak, where people of all tribes and tongues use pork in a huge variety of dishes like Pork, Lotus Root and Black Bean Soup, Fried Pork with Evaporated Milk, or Grilled, 3-Layer Pork Belly.
But barbecue, that American style of cooking in the heat and smoke of a wood fire, is not easy to find. A few restaurants here in Kuching do pork ribs, but they’re usually baked, grilled, and covered in a sweet sauce. That isn’t barbecue.
So where can you find the best barbecue ribs in Kuching? At the House of Annie!
WSM Smoke Day
The Memorial Day weekend was coming up, and with it the annual Weber Smokey Mountain Smoke Day organized by The Virtual Weber Bullet. We planned on inviting a couple of coworkers and their families to our house on Saturday for a barbecue dinner.
That morning, we went to our favorite pork vendor to pick up three slabs of ribs. We had ordered them the previous day, but the vendor still had to cut the slabs up into the baby back and sparerib sections.
Did you know that baby back ribs and spareribs are just the top and bottom parts of the same pork rib rack?
People here normally use pork ribs for bone soups, so the vendors sell them stripped of most of the belly meat and individually hacked into large chunks. I had to train our vendor how to cut the ribs the way I wanted: separate the curved baby back ribs from the straighter spareribs and try to cut off the backbone and breastbone. He gets the idea now, but the cut isn’t as clean as if a band saw were used.
Spareribs on the Left, Baby Backs on the Right
After we got home, I prepped the ribs by washing off all the small bone shards from the vendor’s hack job, trimming the excess flap meat and removing the membrane from the back of the ribs.
The Best Ribs in Kuching
As for a rib rub recipe, I planned on using a 1/4 batch of the Best Ribs In The Universe (also known as BRITU) recipe by Mike Scrutchfield. It has a satisfying balance of sweet, salty, savory and spicy that goes well with smoke. The main difference was, I did not include cayenne pepper in Saturday’s batch; I had to tone down the heat because our guests were bringing kids to dinner. Kuchingites don’t like things too hot.
I rubbed down the ribs then set them in the fridge for a couple of hours to marinate.
BRITU Rub on Baby Back Ribs
Let’s Get Smoking
I fired up the charcoal chimney at around 1:30 PM, assembled the cooker and filled the water pan with cold tap water. I managed to lay all three slabs of spares and baby backs on the grates, with a little overlap. With a smoker full of meat, a full water pan and only one bottom vent open, my smoker’s temperature at the dome hovered around 200*F.
For smoke wood, I used a combination of hickory and local fruit woods. I left the smoker alone for 3 hours, then switched the ribs between the top and bottom grates to ensure even cooking. At 6:30 PM the ribs were a deep mahogany color and the fat was rendering out of the meat.
At this point I glazed the ribs with a mixture of 5 parts barbecue sauce to 1 part honey, then closed off all the smoker’s vents to stop the cooking. Then I brought the ribs inside to rest before slicing.
Barbecue Ribs on the WSM
The ribs had a deep mahogany bark and a nice smoke ring going into the meat but not all the way through. The meat came easily off the bone and had a tender bite but I personally felt some of the thinner ribs were on the dry side. As for the flavor, the ribs had a nice balance of salty-savory from the rub, and sweet from the glaze. I wish it had more spice heat to it, though.
One of our guests, upon biting into his first rib, moaned with delight. “Oh, this is even better than I imagined!” He ended up eating 6 ribs. One of our other guests proclaimed them as better than Porkies, his previous “best ribs in Kuching” choice.
The Best Ribs in Kuching
Are You Nuts?!
My trusty Weber Smokey Mountain cooker has given me years of great ribs, culminating in our Ultimate Rib Showdown. When we were packing up to move to Malaysia from San Jose, I had initially thought to leave it behind, worried that we wouldn’t have enough room in the shipping box to take it. Annie thought I was nuts.
Fortunately, the packers did a good job, we found the room, and Annie convinced me to not leave the WSM behind. Thank goodness we brought it, because we have been able to spread our love for barbecue to our new friends here in Kuching.
Yet another example why husbands should always listen to their wives.