Our beef short ribs in chili mango sauce recipe is powerfully beefy, with a sweet and sour tang that’s underpinned by a slow chili burn. It’s for fiery fans who also love the flavors of well-marbled steak. For guaranteed, plate-licking enjoyment, just add a simple mango salsa and some rice.
Beef short ribs have two grand qualities. They’re seriously high on flavor and attractively low on cost. For me, that’s an outstanding combo. In this dish, they’re cooked long and slow in a velvety sauce of hot bird’s eye chilies, sweet mango, garlic, baby onions, fresh ginger, and dark soy sauce. A little Asian fish sauce builds on the beef’s flavor. And so does some tamarind paste.
Ah, tamarind paste. Now there’s a taste that’s hard to put into a neat little box. Tamarind is sharp and sour, like, say, a lime. But it’s also slightly fruity, similar to crushed, sticky dates — which is what the paste resembles. And tamarind is one of the backbone flavors in Worcestershire sauce. Small wonder, then, that it goes so exceptionally well with beef.
It’s worth searching for tamarind paste at a good Indian or Asian grocer. A little goes a long, long way and it can be safely stored for ages. (Mine’s been covered in its original plastic wrapping and kept in a screw-top glass jar for at least two years. But, ask in-store when you buy it to be sure about its shelf life.)
Be ready — big, rich flavors here
There are so many deep flavors in this bed short ribs dish. That’s why it can easily handle the firepower of bird’s eye chilies. They’ve got the sort of burn that can keep its own identity without stealing all the limelight. For sure, this dish is hot. But the heat hovers in the background, patiently waiting to be happily discovered.
And there’s two more fab features to add to all this. The beef absorbs a lot of the sauce as it gently cooks in its tightly sealed pot. The result? A bargain cut of beef becomes so juicily tender that you can cut it with a soup spoon. And then the beef unleashes the sort of flavors you’d expect from high-end rib-eye or sirloin steak. What more could you ask for?
Choosing your beef short ribs
The cut of ribs I favor is often called ‘flanken’. The bone-in pieces I used were about eight inches long, four inches wide and around two-thirds of an inch thick. Each had four or five sections of oval, crossways cut rib in them. The meat-to-fat proportions were about three-quarters meat (some pieces were maybe two thirds), and a quarter to a third fat. That’s a really grand mix. Why? Because fat boosts flavor.
The fat should be a pale cream color — definitely avoid any cuts with a distinctly yellow hue. A good butcher will provide you all the guidance you need when making your selection — that’s what good butchers love to do.
Beef Short Ribs In Chili Mango Sauce
The short ribs, flanken cut
- 4 pounds fresh beef short ribs the flanken cut with bones in – that quantity gave me nine slices of ribs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the marinade
- 5 red bird’s eye chilies finely diced, seeds and all
- 1 mango peeled and grated with all its juice
- 1 inch fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and grated
- 1 heaped teaspoon tamarind pulp make sure you remove any of the seeds that look a bit like small, dark almonds
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
For the chili mango sauce
- The marinade (from above) forms the base for the sauce, plus the following
- 12 baby onions topped and tailed, peeled and left whole
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce mushroom-flavored is my favorite
- 6 cloves garlic peeled and lightly crushed
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 ½ cups water
- All the reserved beef fat from the skillet and from the plate you set the browned ribs on
For the mango salsa
- 1 fresh green cayenne or serrano chili finely chopped, seeds and all
- 1 mango peeled, stoned and cut into 1/3-inch dice
- 1 small red onion peeled, halved, thinly sliced and then roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon lime juice fresh is grand but a good, bottled variety is fine
- 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- A handful of fresh cilantro finely chopped, stalks and all – as garnish
Preparing the marinade
- Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. In particular, make sure the sticky tamarind paste is really well combined into the marinade. Good. Time now for the ribs.
Preparing the short ribs
- Brown first, marinade second. That sequence is a bit unusual but there’s a reason for it. The ribs have a pretty high fat content and you want to melt it down so that the meat gets the most benefit from the marinade. You also want to get some of dark gold char on the ribs to max their flavor in the sauce.
- So, begin by setting a large skillet on a high heat and add the olive oil. As soon as it just starts to smoke, drop the heat to medium, and start browning the ribs in batches. They need to lay evenly spaced in a single layer in the skillet – do not try to brown them all at once. (In my 12 inch skillet, I did them three at a time.)
- Let them sizzle on one side for four minutes and then turn them for another four minutes on that medium heat. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the skillet and set them aside on a dinner plate. Keep the skillet on its medium heat and quickly start browning the next batch of ribs.
- Once they’re all browned, remove the skillet from the heat. It will be holding a fair amount of hot fat. This is good. It’s an important, flavor-boosting ingredient in the sauce.
- After the ribs have cooled a little on their plate, lightly stab them all over about a dozen times with the tip of a sharp knife. This will allow the marinade to more easily flavor the ribs.
Bringing it all together
- Preheat your oven to 340F / 170C. Choose a large casserole pot with a tight-fitting lid. I used a ten-pint, cast iron one that easily held all the ribs, baby onions, and the sauce.
- Dunk each rib into the marinade and use your fingers to give it a thorough coating. Then place each coated rib in the casserole pot. Pour in all the remaining marinade, plus all the fat from the skillet, and any from the plate you set the ribs to cool on.
- Add all the other sauce ingredients, including the baby onions – but don’t stir yet. Set the pot onto a medium heat until it just starts to bubble. Then drop the heat to low. Now, taking care not to break up the ribs, carefully stir the pot to combine all the ingredients. Let the pot gently simmer for ten minutes on low, then turn off the heat.
- Now, quick as you can, cover the pot with a sheet of tin foil that’s big enough to extend an inch or so down its sides. Put on the lid. Time for the oven.
- Set the pot in the middle of the oven and let it cook at 340F / 170C for three hours. After it’s been in the oven for an hour or so, I like to remove it for a quick check on its saltiness. The soy and the fish sauce are both pretty salty, but you might find that you need to add some more ground sea salt to suit your taste. Once you’re happy with that, return the foil covered, lidded pot to the oven to complete its three hours’ cooking.
Making the salsa, cooking the rice
- While the pot’s in the oven, you’ll have plenty of time to make the mango salsa. This is really easy. Simply mix all the ingredients in a serving bowl and set it to cool in the refrigerator. Just before you’re ready to serve the ribs, taste the salsa to see if there’s enough tartness from the lime juice. Add some more if you feel it needs it.
- For the rice, I like to soak white basmati for at least an hour, just barely covered in some lightly salted water – a heaped teaspoon is enough for rice that will serve four. Cook the rice as it says on the packet, so that it’s ready just as the sauced ribs finish cooking in the oven.
- Plate the ribs and the sauce. Serve the rice and salsa on the side so folks can help themselves.