Every act of aloha counts. Click here to DONATE to the MAUI RELIEF Fund.            

Gordon Lum’s Island-style Ribs

I first met Gordon Lum at a dinner party at Popo June Tong’s house in Palolo Valley about a year ago. It was a potluck and he made char sui spareribs that were so ono that I can still taste them today.


Image 1 of 2

Gordon Lum and Lanai share a laugh RYAN SAKAMOTO PHOTO

He always is cooking, loves to do it and is very passionate about it. I guess you would be, too, if “Lum’s Char Sui Sauce” was in your genes. I know you have seen it before in the clear bottle with the red-and-gold label. It’s been around since 1951 and was his father’s creation, and Gordon still uses the same recipe today.

Gordon joined us in the kitchen to make some of his most popular potluck recipes including chicken panang made with macadamia nuts, chicken chow funn and black bean spareribs.


• 3 1/4 pounds island spareribs (cut into bitesized pieces)

For Black Bean Sauce:

• 4 tablespoons salted black beans
• 3 cloves garlic
• 2 1/2 tablespoons Aloha Shoyu
• 4 teaspoons oyster sauce
• 4 teaspoons liquor (whiskey, sake, sherry, etc.)
• 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons Hawaiian salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 4 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1 stalk green onion

Rinse the spareribs to remove bone chips, etc.; drain. Rinse salted black beans, hand squeeze to remove water and roughly chop. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Thinly slice the green onion.

Combine Black Bean Sauce ingredients into a bowl and mix. Add the island spareribs to the bowl and mix. If possible, line or layer the spareribs against the sides of the bowl. Add water to the steamer and heat. When the water boils, place the bowl of spareribs into the steamer and steam for 1 hour.

Remove the bowl from the steamer. Some of the steam will have collected in the bowl as a liquid. Stir, and a gravy will develop.

Serve with rice.

Tip: “Island” spareribs are what you normally will find in Chinatown. Ask the butcher to cut the spareribs with a bandsaw rather than chopping it with a cleaver; there will be fewer shattered bones to deal with. “Mainland” spareribs are what you would find in supermarkets and also can be used.