Suon Ram Man Vietnamese Caramelized Style Pork Ribs


Suon Ram Man is a traditional Vietnamese dish which is popular homestyle dish as well a popular street food dish. It is essentially ribs braised in a spiced caramel sauce. And it is delicious!

The caramel sauce serves as a braising liquid and is then cooked down to create a sticky yummy sauce for dipping your ribs or drizzling over rice! This sauce starts with a base of brown sugar and is then further flavored with Star Anise and fish sauce which add an underlying savory and slightly funky flavor to the sweetness of the caramel! 

This combination of sweet caramel with the flavor of Star Anise and salty fish sauce makes this dish truly unique.

Star Anise is one of those spices that is often overlooked in the American kitchen.

We think that’s a mistake. 

So what does Star Anise taste like?

Star Anise is said to have a black licorice flavor. And we know – most people do not enjoy black licorice candy.  Keep in mind that comparing true licorice flavor to a black jelly bean is like comparing a fresh cherry to a cherry cough drop. So if you think you won’t like Star Anise because you don’t like black licorice jelly beans, we urge you to give it a try anyway! 

Really there is no comparison between the two! 

Star Anise has a subtle sweetness with herbal notes. And while it doesn’t taste anything like black licorice candy, it is a strong spice. Be cautious with how much you use at one time.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at all the ingredients that go into this rib recipe.


First off, we’ve made a few adjustments to make this dish accessible to those who might now have an Asian market nearby. We’ll explain those adjustments throughout the following ingredient list. If you do have an Asian market, feel free to substitute in the more authentic ingredients. 

Ribs. We’ve used a rack of baby back pork ribs. An authentic recipe of Suon Ram Man would use a cut of ribs called flaken. Flaken ribs are cut just about 2 inches across creating a piece of rib which is small enough to be picked up and nibbled on with a chopstick.

The baby back rack of ribs works just fine as a substitute, but it will require your hands to eat.  

Lime. This recipe calls for both the zest and juice of 3 limes. Again, we’ve made adjustments in this recipe. An authentic Suon Ram Man recipe calls for lemongrass for the dry marinade. Since fresh lemongrass is not always available at most grocery stores and we are using the lime juice later in the recipe, we have substituted the lime zest for the lemongrass. If fresh lemongrass is available, use about 2 tablespoons of finely minced lemongrass instead of lime zest. 

Brown Sugar. The molasses in the brown sugar creates a depth of flavor not found in white sugar. Some traditional recipes call for coconut sugar. Either will work.

Fish Sauce. Fish sauce is one of those ingredients that can seem scary if you’ve never used it before. It has a strong salty flavor and is not meant to be tried by itself. Think of it as the Asian version of Worcestershire sauce. Both sauces actually have a base of fish. The brand of fish sauce we like is Red Boat as it doesn’t have any extra additives. 

Find fish sauce in the Asian aisle of the grocery store or you can order it online. There is no real substitute for its unique flavor. 

Shallots. The shallots in this recipe aren’t eaten, but they do provide a subtle onion/garlic flavor to the braising liquid. If shallot is not available, use a small brown or white onion.

Fresh Cilantro. For this recipe, use the stems of a bunch of cilantro. The stems have just as much flavor as the leaves. After they have cooked into the sauce, they will be strained out before eating the sauce.  


Garlic. Garlic is used for the dry marinade. And we are in the camp of there is never too much garlic – this recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of dried minced garlic. SpiceTopia’s dried garlic is grown in California and provides an easy way to always have garlic on hand. No more need to worry if your garlic has sprouted – or gone mushy. And no chopping!  

Star Anise. In Vietnamese and Chinese cooking, Star Anise is used similarly to how we use Bay Leaves. Often added to soups, stews, and braising liquid, this spice is removed before serving. 

White Peppercorns. White peppercorns are traditional in Asian cooking and provide more of a bit than black pepper. The white pepper adds a sharpness which nicely balances the sweetness of the caramel. If you don’t have white peppercorns, Black Pepper is an easy substitute.

Techniques.How to make Suon Ram Man.

Although, several different cooking techniques are used in this recipe, none of them are complicated or difficult. 

Dry Marinating. Dry marinating simply means using aromatic and flavorful ingredients without added liquids to add flavors before cooking. If you have used a dry rub, you are familiar with this technique. 

In this recipe, garlic, lime zest (or lemongrass), and salt create a dry marinade. In a large bowl, combine all three ingredients.. Rub together. Add the ribs and rub with the mixture. Allow to marinade in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.  

Par Cooking. Another technique used in this Suon Ram Man recipe is par cooking. The ribs are precooked or par cooked which allows some of the fat to melt away (or render), so the braising liquid which is cooked down into a sauce is not so fatty.  

Some recipes, par cook by boiling the ribs. We much prefer the texture that comes from roasting in a 450° oven for 15 – 20 minutes.

Caramel Sauce. Making your own caramel sauce might seem crazy, but in this recipe where it isn’t necessary to worry about temperatures and texture like when creating candy, it is actually an easy process. 

Start by placing the sugar and water in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat. The key is not to stir the two ingredients until the sugar melts into the water. This keeps the sugar from crystalling. Shake the pan instead of stirring if you are worried about combining the ingredients. 

After the sugar is fully dissolved, carefully add the fish sauce and lime juice. Stir everything together. Then add the seasonings (star anise, pepper, shallots, and cilantro). Stir again. Your spiced caramel sauce is ready to go! Keep in mind, this sauce will not be thick like a dessert caramel sauce.

Braising. Braising is a method of slowly cooking in liquid. In this recipe the ribs are cooked slowly for about 1 hour in the caramel sauce. Baking them in the oven at 275°F makes this step hands-off and easy. 

Now that you know the how and why, let’s get to cooking! 

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Suon Ram Man Vietnamese Caramelized Style Pork Ribs

Difficulty: Intermediate Prep Time 8 hrs Cook Time 1 hr Rest Time 15 mins Total Time 9 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 4
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year



    1. Combine the lime zest, garlic, and salt together in a large bowl. Rub all three ingredients together. Add the ribs. Rub the lime zest mixture over the ribs making sure they are evenly coated. 
    2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. 
    3. Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush the dry marinade off the ribs. Place on the baking sheet and roast until they render fat. This should take between 15 - 25 minutes. 
    4. Remove the ribs from the oven. Remove from the baking sheet and drain off any rendered fat. Set aside. 
    5. Turn the oven down to 275°F. 
    6. While the oven cools down. Place the brown sugar and water into a large ovenproof dutch oven or skillet. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. After the sugar has dissolved, add the fish sauce, and lime juice.
    7. Carefully stir together. Then add the shallots, star anise, white peppercorns, and cilantro. Again stir everything together. 
    8. Remove from the heat. Transfer the ribs to the dutch oven/skillet. Cover tightly (if you do not have a lid that fits or can go in the oven, use foil to cover). 
    9. Place in the oven. Allow to braise undisturbed for one hour. 
    10. After one hour, check to see if the ribs are fork-tender. If they are not fork-tender, continue to cook until they are. Check every ten minutes for tenderness. 
    11. After the ribs are tender, remove from the oven and from the braising liquid. 
    12. Cover to keep warm. 
    13. Strain the sauce the ribs braised in. In a small saucepan, cook the strained liquid until thick and syrupy– about 5 minutes. 
    14. Serve the sauce with the ribs. 

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