A bowl of steamed paigu with fermented beans, a spare rib dish commonly eaten in dim sum
Spare ribs (also side ribs or spareribs) are a variety of pork ribs or beef ribs, cooked and eaten in various cuisines around the world. They are the most inexpensive cut of pork and beef ribs. They are a long cut from the lower portion of the pig or cattle, specifically the belly and breastbone, behind the shoulder, and include 11 to 13 long bones. There is a covering of meat on top of the bones as well as between them.
The westernized version of Chinese spare ribs is actually prepared in a manner more common to a Cantonese dish called char siu
In Chinese cuisine, pork spare ribs are generally first cut into 3-4 inch (7-10 cm) sections, then may be fried, steamed, or braised.
In the Cantonese cuisine of southern China, spare ribs are generally red in color and roasted with a sweet and savory sauce. This variety of spare ribs, called char siu, is grouped as one of the most common items of siu mei, or Cantonese roasted meat dishes.
Spare ribs have also become popular in the American South. They are generally cooked on a barbecue or on an open fire, and are served as a slab (bones and all) with a sauce. American butchers prepare two cuts:
Pork spare ribs are taken from the belly side of the pig's rib cage above the sternum (breast bone) and below the back ribs which extend about 6" down from the spine. Spare ribs are flatter than the curved back ribs and contain more bone than meat. There is also quite a bit of fat which can make the ribs more tender than baby back ribs.
St. Louis Cut ribs are spare ribs where the sternum bone, cartilage, and the surrounding meat known as the rib tips have been removed. St. Louis Cut rib racks are almost rectangular.
Beef spare ribs are taken from the belly side of the cattle's rib cage above the sternum (breast bone). Beef spare ribs tend to be longer, wider, and sometimes more curved than their pork counterparts, and are cut from the prime rib rump, of which the thicker boneless part becomes the ribeye steak, and the upper tips of the ribs are then cut off and become short ribs.