Blue Ginger Aromatic Braised Short Ribs with Napa Cabbage-Orzo Stew

(Ming Tsai)


  • 1/2 cup ancho chile powder
  • 1/4 cup salt, plus additional as needed
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper, plus additional as needed
  • 15 double-rib short ribs, cut into 3-inch-long pieces (have the butcher do this)
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 5 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium fennel bulbs, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch dice, fronds reserved for garnish
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 (1-pound) can whole plum tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 cup dark soy sauce 1/2 bunch fresh thyme, or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 star anise


  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 2 heads napa cabbage, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 to 5 cups chicken stock, low-sodium canned broth, or water with 2 ladles of the rib cooking liquid added

In a small bowl, combine the chile powder, the 1/4 cup salt, and the 2 tablespoons pepper and mix well. Season the ribs well with the mixture. Heat a very large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the ribs and brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the ribs, wipe out the pan, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. When the oil shimmers, add the onions, fennel, celery, carrots, garlic, ginger, and black beans and saute, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine, stir, and cook to reduce the liquid by one-fourth, about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, soy sauce, thyme, bay leaves, and star anise. Return the ribs to the pot, add water to cover, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer slowly, covered, until the meat falls from the bones, 3 to 4 hours.

Carefully remove the ribs and keep them warm. Remove the anise, bay leaves, and fresh thyme sprigs, if using, from the sauce. Skim the sauce to remove the fat and heat over medium heat to reduce slightly, about 10 minutes. Using a hand blender or food processor, blend the sauce until smooth.

Correct the seasonings.

Meanwhile, make the orzo stew. Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and saute, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, until well heated, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and saute, stirring, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the stock in 1 -cup increments, allowing it to be absorbed by the orzo before adding more, and cook until the orzo is soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the cabbage will release water; you may not need all the stock. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter.

Mound the stew in a large bowl. Top with the ribs and Ladle over the sauce. Garnish with the fennel fronds and serve.

Wine pairing: 2020 Papera Vineyard Zinfandel
Makes 10-12 servings
Source: Blue Ginger by Ming Tsai and Arthur Boehm