Chinese Style Sticky Ribs – Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Last night Ev made the most delicious ribs ever.


I helped, I suppose – as much as my post half marathon legs would allow. Never before had I realised that having the pots and pans in the lower cupboards was such a hassle, that the slightest steps would be so hard. I felt like I was 100 years old… still do, well maybe 80 by now, which is why I’m choosing a seated activity like blogging over cleaning the kitchen.

I will regret being seated for so long when I attempt to get up again… ouch. But I’m already planning the next one! 2 hours and 25 minutes for my first half marathon, I’m pretty stoked; especially considering I couldn’t run for the three weeks preceding it due to a recurrent hip injury. Now I need to improve on it!

These ribs can be served with blanched or stir-fried vegetables and rice. I will only explain the ribs in this post and I’ll do the rice in another. But they are so delicious. And grinding the star anise was my favourite part. Because I haven’t found a wheat-free/fructose friendly liquorice that I can eat, the aniseed aromas that wafted out of the food processor were like magic. Combine that with the ginger in there and it was like Christmas had come for me. All I could smell were liquorice and fresh ginger bread… at least in my mind!


  1. Dextrose is a low FODMAP sugar.
  2. Ginger root (fresh and ground) is low FODMAP in 1 tsp serves.
  3. Tomato sauce – in Australia – is safe in 13 g serves. The 1/2 cup called for in this recipe equates to about 100 g, so around about 7-8 serves of this recipe for FODMAPers.
  4. Golden, maple and rice malt syrups are all low FODMAP.
  5. Hoisin sauce has not been tested for FODMAP content. I have found a brand in the US that I am okay with, please check ingredients and, if you are not sure, then skip this recipe.
  6. Rice vinegar and rice wine are both low FODMAP.
  7. Brown sugar is low FODMAP in the amount present per serve.
  8. Sesame oil contains no carbohydrates, so is low FODMAP.
  9. Five spice powder is a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, szechuan peppercorn and fennel seeds. All but the szechuan peppercorns have been tested by Monash and are low FODMAP and five spice powder as a premade blend is low FODMAP in 1 tsp. serves.
  10. Asafoetida is low FODMAP and, given that you’d only ever need a tiny amount per recipe, it’s easy to not go over. Just make sure that you buy a gluten free version if you have Coeliac disease.

Chinese Style Sticky Ribs

Serves 8 FODMAPers.

For each rack of spare ribs, you will need…

  • 2 tbsp. dextrose
  • 6-8 chunks of ginger root, cut into 0.5 x 5 cm (1/4″ x 2″) chunks.
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (aka ketchup, HFCS free)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce, GF if required
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup/maple syrup/rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup GF hoisin sauce – has not been tested, check ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. rice wine
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar – sub in dextrose if this is problematic
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. five spice powder
  • 2 tsp. grated/ground ginger
  • 1 pinch asafoetida

Prepare your ribs. You can either buy them St Louis style or by the whole rack (usually cheaper per pound) and cut them down yourself. You can find more detailed instructions here but essentially you trim off the membrane, skirt and the riblets to reveal a neat, rectangular rack of ribs.

The rack should then be cut into individual ribs and then those ribs cut (read – bashed with a meat cleaver, ribs are hard) into 5 cm/2 inch lengths. You can also cut the riblets down to size and include them… I actually like those bits best because they have more meat on them.


Next, soak the ribs in slightly salty water for 15 minutes. This gets rid of any funky odours that packaged meat sometimes comes with due to chemicals that warehouses spray on them to impede bacterial growth.

Seal your pot. Once it is properly sealed (and only then!) pour in the 2 tbsp. castor sugar and fry it on a medium heat til it caramelises. You will need to seal it with more oil than usual, or the sugar will absorb it all too quickly and dry out and burn.  In the meantime, drain the ribs (they need to be thoroughly dry or the water and hot oil mixing will create a nice explosion) and have them ready to go. Once the sugar has caramelised, sear them in the pot with the ginger chunks.

IMG_2740 IMG_2742Leaving the ribs and ginger in the pot, fill it with water until everything is just submerged, then bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. When it comes to the boil, the blood will rise to the top in a layer of scum – skim this off and discard. Set the timer.

IMG_2748After the 20 minutes are up, remove the ribs with a slotted spoon (discard the ginger) and place them aside to dry in a bowl lined with paper towel.

IMG_2751While the ribs are boiling, make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together. We didn’t have five spice powder (and I couldn’t find it anywhere locally) so I made it myself. I couldn’t find one of the more typical ingredients, either, so I substituted it for another type of pepper.


Star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and paprika – I misread the recipe and it should have been some sort of peppercorn, not a chili pepper; a mistake but it still tasted delicious. Blend until smooth in a food processor.

Once you have dried the ribs, seal your fry pan because you will need to sear them once more until they are a crispy brown.

IMG_2752Remove them once more (for the last time, I promise). Leave the pan off the heat for a few minutes to allow it to cool properly or there will be another explosion when the water based sauce hits the hot oil and heat your sauce through on a low-medium heat til it is smooth and well combined.

IMG_2753Pour the ribs back into the sauce and heat through while stirring. Serve with rice and veggies. Enjoy!

IMG_2758 IMG_2760This definitely worked a treat as a post looooong run meal with protein and carbs. If you have problems with table sugar, which is 1:1 fructose to glucose, then this meal might not be for you unless you substitute a cooking sweetener like Stevia or dextrose in its place.


I have never cooked with Stevia because in the small amounts that I eat sugar, it hasn’t bothered me; this is what I hear from most other people I know with FM – which is different than HFI. Brown sugar, on the other hand, has about 101 g fructose to 100 g glucose. The 1 g of extra fructose doesn’t bother me in small amounts (though I haven’t sat there and eaten a bowl of it to see how much would bother me) but again, if you know it affects you or you don’t want to risk trying it, then skip it or replace it with something like Stevia.


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