This is a traditional Nyonya dish from Malaysia, which is usually made with chicken, but here I translate it into lamb ribs.






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  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500 g lamb ribs, trimmed and cut into individual ribs
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • coriander sprigs, to garnish
  • steamed Jasmine rice, to serve


  • 1 brown onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 50 g tamarind pulp, mixed with 150 ml warm water, strained
  • 2 tbsp black bean paste
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp caramel masakan (dark soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp white pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp rice wine

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


  1. Place the onion and garlic in a food processor and blend into a smooth puree. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine well. Add the lamb ribs, toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Remove the ribs from the marinade and set the ribs aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy–based saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the marinade and cook for 5–7 minutes or until the oil splits.  
  4. Add the ribs and 500 ml (2 cups) water, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour or until the ribs are almost falling off the bone, adding another cup or so of water when necessary. Stir in half the sugar and keep tasting, add more as desired.
  5. Transfer the ribs to a serving dish, scatter with coriander sprigs, drizzle with honey and serve with steamed rice.


Adam Liaw cooks, laughs, and explores culture with some of Australia's most beloved in The Cook Up With Adam Liaw.

Photography by Danielle Abou Karam.