10 hours, largely unattended
Baby back are my favorite for this because you can easily cut between the bones and they become tender pretty quickly, but feel free to use spare ribs. You could braise a spatula in this sauce and it would probably taste good.
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 pounds pork baby back ribs, separated into individual ribs
1 1 ⁄ 4 cups brown sugar
1 ⁄ 2 cup fish sauce
3 limes, halved
3 large shallots, sliced
4 star anise
2 teaspoons pepper
1 small bunch fresh cilantro
1. Combine the lemongrass and garlic in a big bowl with a big pinch of salt. Add the ribs and rub the mixture all over and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
2. Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with foil to help with clean up. Shake off any excess marinade, then put the ribs on the prepared pan in a single layer. Roast, turning once or twice, until the pork renders some fat and is browned, 15 to 20 minutes total. Remove the ribs from the oven and lower the heat to 275°F.
3. Put the brown sugar in a large pot over medium heat and add 1 1 ⁄ 4 cups water. Cook, gently shaking the pan occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the fish sauce and squeeze the limes into the pot. Add the shallots, star anise, pepper, and cilantro and stir to combine.
4. Transfer the ribs to the large pot with the sauce. Cover tightly and transfer to the oven. Braise, undisturbed, for 1 hour. If the ribs aren’t fork-tender, continue to cook, covered, until they are, checking every 5 minutes.
5. Reline the baking sheet with fresh foil. Remove the ribs to the prepared pan and transfer to the oven. Strain the sauce into a medium saucepan and cook until thick and syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve the ribs hot or warm, passing the extra sauce at the table.