Home » Cuisines » Huai Yang Cuisine » Sweet and Sour Ribs Shanghai-Style

Sweet and Sour Ribs Shanghai-Style

Shanghai Tang Cu Pai Gu {糖醋排骨}

by Shirley
Published: Updated:
Sweet and Sour Ribs {Easy Shanghai Classic}

Sweet and Sour Ribs Shanghai classic style are such a delicious and well-liked Huai Yang classic dish. It features meat-fall-off bone ribs that have a sweet and vinegary appetizing taste. Unstoppably yummy. Perfect to pair with freshly made steamed rice and a blanched green leafy vegetable for a tasty and healthy dinner.

Traditionally spare ribs are chopped into small bite-size, hence the name “Small Ribs”, or “Xiao Pai” {小排}. For family cooking, I usually just cook in the original spare rib size.

Sweet and Sour Ribs {Easy Shanghai Classic}
Sweet and Sour Ribs {Easy Shanghai Classic}

What do you need to make authentic, healthier sweet and sour ribs?

Ingredients Required for Shanghai Style Sweet and Sour Ribs:

Amazingly simple ingredients. It uses way fewer ingredients than a typical Chinese meat stir-fry dish.

Sweet and Sour Ribs Ingredients
Sweet and Sour Ribs Ingredients

Ribs – Traditionally, the Huai Yang style uses small ribs or bite-size ribs. However, for a dish this good, more meat doesn’t hurt, LOL. For this recipe, you may either use spare ribs or small ribs.

Shaoxing Wine, Regular Soy Sauce, and Light Soy Sauce are among the cornerstone condiments toward authentic, simple Chinese cooking. There are many varieties on the market. This is the Shaoxing Wine I have been using.

Lately I also use sake in lieu of Shaoxing wine and I really like sake’s refreshingly flavor and taste. The nice thing about sake is that you can use it to cook all kinds of food including seafood, which the Shaoxing wine wouldn’t work well.

Regular Soy Sauce or Jiang You (酱油) is a naturally & traditionally brewed soy sauce, the one Chinese cooking has been using for hundreds & thousands of years. This was before Cantonese light vs. dark soy sauce became popular. You can use dark soy sauce to substitute regular soy sauce for my recipes.

Sugar and Zhenjiang Vinegar are the essential two elements behind the sweet & sour taste.

Getting Ready for Braising Sweet & Sour Ribs
Getting Ready for Braising Sweet & Sour Ribs

Sugar in the raw is my go-to sugar besides organic cane sugar. It works great for this recipe for its substance and color. Rock sugar (Bing Tang 冰糖) is a popular sugar to cook meat too.

Zhenjiang Vinegar is an ancient vinegar in China. There are lots of various brands, but I have been sticking with this traditional one.

Useful Kitchen Utensils:

A quality cast iron Wok makes the braising much easier. A Wok is helpful because we need to turn the food from time to time and ensure even cooking and braising. I also frequently use the wok for steaming together with a dome-shaped lid.

Getting Ready for Braising Sweet & Sour Ribs

A slotted turner with a sturdy long handle and a firm but flexible surface is very handy for stir-fry and braising also. It makes it so much easier to fold, turn and flip the food.

A bamboo spatula helps mix the sauce in the Wok.

Like traditional Chinese food cooked in a healthier and simplified way? Make sure you check out below:

Sweet and Sour Ribs {Easy Shanghai Classic}

Sweet and Sour Ribs Recipe {Shanghai Style Tang Cu Pai Gu}

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Sweet and Sour Ribs, a classic traditional Huai Yang dish, is unstoppably appetizingly delicious. Now you can cook this authentic well-liked dish in a simplified healthy way in under 40 minutes. Perfect to pair with a bowl of rice and blanched vegetable for a tasty and healthy dinner.


  • 2 lbs of pork ribs, spare ribs, or small ribs
  • 1 tsp avocado oil
  • 1 small piece of ginger, thin sliced
  • 2 stalks of green onion, chopped

For Braising Sauce:

  • 6 tbsp Zhenjiang vinegar, just a little over 1/3 cup
  • 6 tbsp cup sugar, organic sugar in the raw, unrefined cane sugar or rock sugar
  • 2 tbsp sake, or Shaoxing wine
  • 3 tbsp naturally aged soy sauce or dark soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 cup of water, for braising, see notes.


  1. Rinse ribs thoroughly and separate ribs
    Spare Ribs for Sweet & Sour Ribs
  2. Turn the heat to medium-high and heat the wok for 1 minute. Add the oil, ginger, half of the green onion, and ribs into the wok, and pan-fry for 5 minutes. By the end of the 5 minutes, the ribs shall be browned.
    Pan Fry Spare Ribs
    Browned Spare Ribs after Pan Frying
  3. Add everything under "For Braising Sauce". Use a flexible turner to fold and mix well. Cover the lid and bring it to a boil, and then turn to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
    Getting Ready for Braising Sweet & Sour Ribs
    Getting Ready for Braising Sweet & Sour Ribs
  4. Turn the heat back to medium-high, remove the lid and use the flexible turner to turn and fold the ribs and mix well with the braising juice. Cover the wok with the lid again and cook for 10 -15 minutes, or till the braising juice is dispearing, the sugar has burnt and the rib looks cameralized.
    Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs
  5. Turn off the heat, and garnish with the green onions.
  6. All done! Enjoy a super delicious, meat falling off the bone spare ribs!
    Sweet and Sour Ribs {Easy Shanghai Classic}


  • Small ribs {Xiao Pai 小排} take less time to cook. If you are cooking small ribs, you may need less time.
  • Sugar in the raw is one of my go-to sugar. They work great with these ribs due to their substance and color. You can substitute with other sugar such as yellow (unrefined) rock sugar (黄冰糖), rock sugar, or unrefined organic cane sugar.
  • You may scale up or down the ingredients proportionately based on how many ribs you are cooking. The water, however, remains 1 cup.
  • Slow cooking using simmer mode first and then caramelize later using medium-high heat is the key to a super juicy, tasty and eye-catching Shanghai-style sweet and sour rib.
  • You will notice the braising forced out lots of pork fat that goes into the braising juice. Save the pork fat for a simple & yummy Huai Yang style Yang Chun Noodle {阳春面}.

Nutrition Information
Yield 4 servings Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 960Total Fat 70gSaturated Fat 21gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 31gCholesterol 238mgSodium 2182mgCarbohydrates 29gFiber 0gSugar 27gProtein 50g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Leave a Comment

You may also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Skip to Recipe