These grilled Vietnamese lemongrass pork ribs are succulent, tender, and rich in umami flavor.
The weather finally warmed up for us to dust off our grill last weekend. When it’s nice outside, we love to grill and enjoy a casual dinner in the garden. Growing up in Vietnam, the closest thing I had to a grill was a small, rustic charcoal brazier. As a child, I helped my mom keep the fire going by fanning it until my arms were about to fall off. Fancy grills like the Weber grills did not exist. When we bought our house, we ditched our George Foreman grill for the real deal. The sensory experience of dealing with a live fire from a charcoal grill brings back so many nostalgic moments from my childhood. We grill pretty much everything but hands down Vu’s favorite is Vietnamese lemongrass pork ribs.
- Lemongrass: Lemongrass is a common ingredient used in Vietnamese cooking. Large pieces are smashed and added as an aromatic in soups like bun bo Hue, bo kho, and curry whereas finely chopped pieces work as a marinade to lend incredible fragrance and texture to the protein used. Much of the lemongrass’s flavor is concentrated in its lower, cane-like stalks. Look for firm, pale-green stalks with fat, bulbous bottoms. Trim off the spiky tops and the bases and crush the stalks with the side of a knife to release their aromatic oils. It does take a bit of elbow grease to chop all those lemongrass stalks by hand but I promise the result is totally worth it.
- Aromatics: besides the lemongrass, a combination of shallots and scallion will add flavor to the
- Fish sauce: some of my favorite brands are Three Crabs, Flying Lion Premium Fish Sauce, and Red Boat Fish Sauce.
How Long to Marinate the Pork Ribs
These pork ribs were marinated overnight in a bath of chopped lemongrass, shallots, scallions, fish sauce, sesame oil, and sugar to infuse those beautiful flavors. Marinate them for a minimum of 12 and maximum of 48 hours for the best flavor.
Tips for Grilling Ribs
Over the years, we have learned that the low and slow method works best. Vu would place the coals on one side of the grill, let the temperature rise to about 375 degrees F before tossing any meat on it. The rack of ribs is placed on the side without the coals to cook for 90 minutes. By using indirect heat, the result is a tender piece of meat without the seared black marks signaling inconsistent cooking. We let the ribs rest so the juices can redistribute before slicing them.
The amalgamation of flavors from the marinade combined with the smoky flavor make these ribs completely irresistible. Vu could devour half a rack in one sitting but I like to pair them with a simple bowl of jasmine rice and grilled vegetables. These grilled Vietnamese pork ribs are succulent, tender, and finger licking good and perfect for a casual dinner or weekend get together with family and friends.
If you want more Vietnamese grilling inspiration, check out these recipes: Vietnamese broken rice with grilled lemongrass pork chops, Vietnamese grilled beef wrapped in betel leaves, Vietnamese grilled pork noodle bowl.
Grilled Vietnamese lemongrass pork ribs
- 3 pounds extra tender pork back ribs
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 6 stalks of fresh lemongrass
- 2 banana shallots, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch of scallions, green and white parts, coarsely chopped
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the hot water, fish sauce, sugar, and oil together.
- To make the marinade, trim the lemongrass stalks, leaving about 6 inches from the bottom. Peel the outer leaves and use only the tender bulb. Slice them into rings first then use a very sharp knife to finely mince.
- Chop the shallots and scallions coarsely.
- Add the lemongrass, shallots, scallion, and pepper to the liquid mixture and whisk to combine.
- Place the slab of ribs with the meat side facing the bottom of a baking pan and pour the marinade over it. Cover and let it marinade overnight or at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.
- When ready to grill, remove the slab from the fridge while you prepare the grill. Set up the charcoal grill by placing coals on one side and lighting them. Rake the coals to create a flat even bed to create an even steady heat zone.
- Once the coals have burned down to about 375 degrees F, place the meat over the coals to sear for a minute on each side.
- Move the meat to the opposite side lined with heavy duty foil and cook for about 90-100 minutes, basting every now and then with the marinade and flipping it.
- Let the ribs rest for 15 minutes before slicing between each ribs. Serve immediately with jasmine rice and your favorite vegetables.