Sườn Xào Nước Mắm: Crispy Stir-Fried Pork Ribs With Caramelized Fish Sauce


It may seem that I’m a gastronomic magpie and in a sense I am. Looking back at the last few weeks, my posts have been all over the map. Literally. I guess you could say that I like variety but no matter if we’re talking Thai, Moroccan, or Spanish, it’s the intense fresh flavors that draw me like a bee to a blossom. This is a tweaked version of a dish my Mom used to cook for me growing up in the frozen north that probably reminded her of a more tropical home. Sườn xào nước mắm literally translates as “ribs stir-fried with fish sauce.” It’s a deceptively simple dish that only had 6 ingredients when my Mom cooked it: oil, short pork ribs, salt, pepper, sugar, and fish sauce. While the succulent bits of pork with crispy edges caramelized from the hot wok and sauce tasted delicious, savory with a hint of sweetness, I’ve found that my tastes have evolved to craving more bursts of flavor: zesty ginger, fiery Sriracha, sweetly smooth mirin rice wine, and garlic is everyone’s BFF (except maybe licorice). We’ve been panicking doing last minute packing for our tropical holiday so when the house looks like the Tasmanian Devil spent the weekend, having dinner on the table in under 30 minutes is pretty welcome.


1 1/2 lb bone-in short pork ribs or 1 lb boneless country-style pork ribs (I used boneless ribs cuz I’m lazy 😉 )
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp (2 cloves) crushed garlic
1/2 tsp (1/2 inch) crushed ginger
2 tbsp mirin **in this case you can substitute sweet sherry if you can’t find mirin or water with a pinch of brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce (I use Three Crabs brand)
2 tsp packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
Steamed rice

Trim excess fat from ribs. If using boneless pork ribs cut into 1-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper.

If you have a range hood, turn it on high as the stir-fried fish sauce can get pungent, otherwise opening a window or two couldn’t hurt unless you don’t mind your curtains smelling of last night’s dinner 😉 In a wok or large skillet heat oil over high heat till a drop of water evaporates in 1 second. Brown pork in 2-3 batches on both sides ~2 minutes per side. Remove from wok and set aside. Lower heat to med-hi and stir in garlic and ginger till aromatic ~30 seconds. Add mirin, fish sauce, brown sugar, and Sriracha and simmer briskly till reduced by one half. Return pork and any accumulated juices and glaze in sauce for 2 minutes. Serve with steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.


**With 1 1/2 c steamed white rice the calorie count is 493 with 67.2 g carbohydrates total.

About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)


  1. JKM

    This looks amazing! I may have to try it out!

    • Cam

      I hope you enjoy it! The fish sauce doesn’t make the ribs taste fishy, just savory with some sweetness from the brown sugar.

      Thanks for dropping by & following my blog 🙂

  2. This sounds like a great recipe and it’s definitely going to grace my table — and soon. I’ve got everything — including that brand of fish sauce — except for the mirin and pork. One of the markets I frequent has rib tips and I bet they would work fine here — well, I’ll soon find out. Thanks for sharing a fantastic restaurant.\H
    Have a wonderful holiday! Safe travels, Cam.

    • Cam

      Rib tips will be delicious!

      Thanks! We’re sitting on the plane waiting for take off. The forecast is for lots of rain with intermittent sunshine but it’s still tropical paradise with LOWS in the high 60s 🙂

      • I just had to tell you. I made this last week, with rib tips, and it was delicious! My kitchen smelled like my favorite Thai restaurant. I liked it so much, Cam, that I bought country ribs to make it again this week. I almost decided to use chicken thighs instead of the pork but that can wait a while. Let me tire a little of the pork. 🙂 Thanks for a great recipe.

      • Cam

        Actually, if you put a lot of ginger in it, the sauce ends up tasting like gà kho gừng which is chicken braised in a ginger caramelized fish sauce so chicken or pork is a great idea. One of these days I will make it for dinner, so many dishes but only so many meals in a day 😉

        Thanks so much for the feedback! Glad you liked it. It’s funny, a lot of my childhood comfort foods have become the hubby’s comfort foods too. Opposites attract and develop the same tastes over time? 😀

  3. I’m gonna get this menu for sure when u opened the restaurant……

    • Cam

      I’m pretty certain no one’s going to want to eat at a “restaurant” where a 90 pound muppet dog thinks you have nothing better to doh than pet him while your meal has been inexplicably delayed by ADD lol

  4. Thanks for the great, healthy recipes.
    I am definitely going to try.

  5. Can’t wait to try this. I love nuoc mam and the though of caramelizing it on pork is delightful. Thank you for stopping by over at my blog, I’m glad to have found yours now too! M

    • Cam

      If you love fish sauce you should be pretty happy with the sweet-savory sauce 🙂 Would love to hear your thoughts on the flavors.

      PS: Your vintage cookbooks make me so nostalgic. I do a lot of interwebs searches for inspiration but I still enjoy the feel and weight of paper (usually spattered with unknown liquids and powders lol).

  6. jalal michael sabbagh.http://gravatar.com/jmsabbagh86@gmail.com

    Delicious recipe ,l will try it.Thank you for liking my post.Warm regards.jalal

  7. jalal michael sabbagh.http://gravatar.com/jmsabbagh86@gmail.com

    The recipe turned mmmm good. every one liked it.Thank you for liking my post ( A day without tomorrow, ) awaiting more recipes.Good cooking.jalal

  8. jalal michael sabbagh.http://gravatar.com/jmsabbagh86@gmail.com

    I appreciate your visit and following my blog.jalal

  9. Pingback: Slow Cooker General Tso’s Chicken | from the Bartolini kitchens

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