We recently returned home from a fun family vacation in Hawaii. We’ve taken our kids there a few times now, but we usually stay on Kauai where it’s a little off-the-beaten-path, and not at a big hotel or resort, which is how we like to roll. This time, my husband had a business event at Aulani, which is a massive Disney resort on Oahu. (As a side note: I’ve had lots of people ask me what I thought of Aulani- if you’re interested, leave a comment and I can write a post with some photos and an unbiased review of the place. It wasn’t a sponsored trip or anything, but oh how my wallet wishes it was…) We met up with good friends there, that we attended grad school with, and it was a blast reconnecting and letting our kids spend time together. Since my kids had never been to Oahu, we did lots of the tourist-y things like visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center (where we got inked- island style) and taking a walk around the beautiful LDS Temple in Laie.
We had plenty of beach time to run from little waves and build sand castles,
We also ate lots of yummy food (Like that pineapple-macadamia nut cupcake). I have always loved tropical flavors; polynesian style recipes are something Kate and I both cook a lot of and we have a great section here on the blog full of our tropical-themed eats.
Hawaii, and especially Oahu, has a very heavy Asian influence and it’s obvious in the delicious food. One of my family’s favorite things are Hawaiian style ribs. They’re a little different than the traditional bbq ribs that the US south has made famous.
Hawaiian style ribs are what’s called “Flanken Cut”. They’re cut lengthwise across the ribs instead of horizontally, like you’re probably used to seeing. You’ll sometimes see them called Korean style short ribs, or Maui ribs, too. They’re often super thin, like 1/4 in thick. These ones in my photos are actually the thickest I’ve ever bought, at closer to 1/2 inch thick. If you don’t see any flanken cut ribs, just ask the butcher at the meat counter and they should be able to help you out. Where I live (Boise, ID area) I can always find these at WinCo.
The great thing with a thin cut of meat is that it soaks up flavor so well. So I’m using some of my all-time faves in this sweet and savory marinade. These ingredients have made lots and lots of appearances on this blog!
For the base, we’re using pineapple juice. You can buy these little cans in the juice aisle of the grocery store (almost always on the bottom shelf.) They come in a 6-pack and I always keep them on hand because they’re great for marinades and smoothies, and I love that you can open just a little can and not have to use up a big container. And oh yet- you better believe we visited the Dole plantation in Hawaii and had a nice big cup of Dole Whip! (Basically fresh pineapple soft-serve. Delish.)
Even though pineapple juice is sweet, we’ll add just a little more- in the form of brown sugar. It adds a depth of flavor to the sweetness, and more importantly creates the amazing caramelization on the outside of the meat.
Then in go the big flavors- lots of fresh garlic and ginger. Feel free to be generous here, I usually throw in extra!
And also a little sesame oil, a touch of rice vinegar for acidity, and a big handful of sliced green onions. Mix it up and pour it right over your ribs. I always use a ziplock bag because it makes it easy to toss and turn the meat during marinading.
I’ve also found that loaf pans work great to hold the bag. they’re kind of the perfect size so they keep everything submerged.
I definitely recommend marinading these overnight. Since there’s not a lot of acidity, the mellow flavors really benefit from a long marinade, especially if your ribs are on the thicker side like mine. If you try and rush it, they definitely won’t be as flavorful, but if you’ve got a really thin cut you could probably get away with marinading them first thing in the morning for dinner that night. I recommend mixing it up any time the day before for dinner the next night.
When you’re ready to cook them up, preheat the grill so it’s nice and hot and then turn it down a bit before you add the food. If you’ve never ready my post on grilling the perfect steak, I highly recommend it- click here to check it out!
For the pineapple, I just brush it lightly (I actually use an olive oil sprayer) with oil and give each slice a little sprinkle of kosher salt. Just pop them right on the grill along side the ribs.
If your ribs are super thin (like, 1/4 inch) they’ll only take a minute or two on each side to cook. These thick ones like I have will take more like 4-6 minutes on each side. Just keep an eye on the pineapple and turn it when it has some nice charring on each side. I cook both the pineapple and the ribs for the same amount of time usually.
The natural pineapple juice with caramelize and a well-seasoned grill gives the fruit tons of flavor (which is why you should never grill fruit that will be used for a dessert on a regular bbq grill. Just ask me about the pineapple bbq chicken cake disaster of 2008.)
Serve those ribs hot off the grill along with the pineapple.
They have a nice chew, while being soft and tender at the same time. The tropical flavors are perfect when you take a bite together with the pineapple, and even better with some coconut rice, too!
So crank up your grill, bust out your hula skirt, and take a little trip to the islands this week.
- up to 2lbs flanken cut ribs
- 2 6oz cans pineapple juice (1 1/2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 whole pineapple, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
- Place ribs in a ziplock bag and set aside. Combine pineapple juice, brown sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and green onions in a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour mixture over ribs in bag and marinate over night in the fridge. Turn bag occasionally to evenly distribute marinade.
- Preheat BBQ grill. Lightly brush pineapple slices with olive or vegetable oil (or a spray works great). Give each slice a very light sprinkle of kosher salt. Place both ribs and pineapple on grill and cook until charred on both sides and evenly done. Steak time will depend on thickness of cut. Extra thin ribs cook for only a couple of minutes per side and thicker cuts (up to 1/2 inch) may take 5-6 minutes per side.
Here’s some of my favorite sides to serve with this meal:
Coconut Rice (try adding fresh diced mango and sliced green onions)
A green salad with Honey-Citrus Vinegrette
Caramelized Green Beans
And if you’d like an umbrella drink to go with it, we have tons of great tropical sips in our beverage section!