In years past, the Super Bowl has ranked as the second-biggest food day of the year in the U.S., right behind Thanksgiving, when fans might consume up to 3,000 calories during the three-hour football game.
The biggest game day food? Unquestionably chicken wings. Fans ate an estimated 1.4 billion wings for Super Bowl LlV. This year, that number is expected to increase by 2% even without the big parties that have been a hallmark of the event. Simultaneously, the price of wings has surged 20% this year in anticipation of Super Bowl LV.
High wing prices aren’t the only reason it’s worth adopting a new dish to anchor Super Bowl menus. For a year in which everything is different, Jason Wang, founder of New York’s beloved noodle chain Xi’an Famous Foods, offers up red glazed ribs, coated with a sweet, sticky, and spicy sauce.
The ribs are also a dish that has a prime place in another major food holiday, Lunar New Year. Wang includes them in his top five foods for Chinese New Year—the Year of the Ox will start on Feb. 12—along with dumplings and noodles, as a more accessible version of the suckling pig that many serve as a holiday table centerpiece to signify wealth.
In his recent book, Xi’an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York’s Favorite Noodle Shop (Abrams Books; $35 ( ₹ 2600)), written with Jessica K. Chou, Wang shares plenty of recipes for dumplings and the hand-ripped noodles that captured the attention of people like Anthony Bourdain. Alongside them is his family recipe for red-braised ribs, known as hong shao. It’s a dish his mother made when his family moved to Michigan from Xi’an in China.
“I would take naps after school and wake up to the aroma of these ribs cooking. They’re still my go-to when I want comfort,” he says. The ribs are ingeniously caramelized in a sugar mixture to start, which browns and flavors them. They are then braised in a soy sauce broth that’s studded with fragrant spices, including cloves, star anise, and a small handful of Sichuan peppercorns, which deliver an invigorating heat to the glaze on the meaty bites of pork.
Besides being delectable, these ribs are deceptively simple to make. For anyone who has ever monitored a spattering pan, frying chicken wings is no joke; they’re best left to an expert with a good sauce recipe. These ribs, on the other hand, require minimal attention after they’ve been caramelized. The most time-consuming part of this dish, once you’ve sourced the ingredients, is counting out the spices.
This is also a food that benefits from being made ahead of time: The glaze permeates the pork as it sits.
The following recipe is adapted from Xi’an Famous Foods by Jason Wang. Tester’s note: If you want spicier ribs, add the maximum amount of Sichuan peppercorns.
Red Braised Ribs
¼ cup, plus 1/3 cup vegetable oi
l¼ cup sugar
2 lb. pork spareribs, cut into 3-inch pieces (ask your butcher to cut them)
One 4-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half
4 bay leaves
2 star anise pods
20-30 Sichuan peppercorns
3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
6 tbsp. Shaoxing cooking wine or mirin or dry sherry
6 tbsp. soy sauce
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat ¼ cup of the vegetable oil over medium heat until it begins to ripple. Add the sugar and stir until combined and the mixture turns caramel brown, about 7 minutes; don’t let the mixture burn. Carefully add the ribs to the pot. Cook until they begin to brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate, with any caramel that clings to the ribs. Clean and dry the pot thoroughly. Add the remaining 1/3 cup vegetable oil to the pot and turn the heat up to high. Add the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns. Fry, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute until fragrant; don’t let them burn.
Carefully remove the bay leaves from the pot, taking the pot off the heat, if necessary. Add the ribs and stir to coat with the seasoned oil. Add 2/3rds of the scallions, plus the ginger, cooking wine, and soy sauce. Stir, and cook for 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Uncover the pot and raise the heat to high. Add any remaining caramel and boil until the sauce is reduced to a glaze, 25-30 minutes. (If you want a looser sauce to serve over rice, cut the boiling time to about 15 minutes.) Stir in the remaining scallions and serve the ribs.