I love ribs, and what got me hooked on them was the smoky taste, the sticky glaze and the 'bite' of the meat on the bone. This doesn't, however, mean that you always have to have them in the traditional American barbeque style. I went to Sri Lanka a few years ago to stay with a friend of mine who is a manager of a tea plantation, and being a foodie I absolutely immersed myself in the local food culture. At that particular time of my life I kept a journal that I wrote in every day, and these travels were no exception; however, I had to keep a separate food journal in the 'Notes' section at the back of the diary to take note and remind myself of the amazing cuisine Sri Lanka has to offer.
Whilst I never had ribs in Sri Lanka, and its not a dish particularly synonymous with Sri Lanka, I felt it was going to make a brilliant combination bringing all that I loved about ribs together with all I had experienced in Sri Lanka. The basic principles of smoking American style ribs absolutely apply here, and without the knowledge and experience of cooking ribs in the American style I would have never been able to pull this off.
I made a Sri Lankan style dry rub for the ribs I had (once trimmed). This was predominantly a bought Sri Lankan curry spice blend mixed with some sugar. Unfortunately you can't buy this rub any more but I have, however, listed the ingredients in the recipe below, use this as a guide if you make your own rub (which is what I'll have to do next time!).
I dry-rubbed the ribs as you would normally, and placed on the Weber at 225-250F to cook indirect with some cherry wood for 3 hours. Using the 3-2-1 method with a Texas crutch I wrapped after 3 hours and placed in honey, light brown sugar, cuisine coconut (a form of coconut milk designed for cooking) and some beer, in this instance it was Belhaven Mango IPA. I then returned to the Weber to cook at 225-250F for another 2 hours. Then finally, an hour uncovered back in the smoker again. After 30 minutes like this I gave it a sticky glaze predominantly with cuisine coconut and tamarind, but with a bit more of the Sri Lankan dry rub mixed in too (see below).
Whilst the ribs were cooking I knocked up some appropriate sides. Again taking inspiration from American barbeque but with a Sri Lankan twist. The Sri Lankan slaw took the same basic ingredients as a more westernised slaw (see below) but added a small amount of lemongrass and cuisine coconut. The potatoes were simply new potatoes that were par-boiled, then tossed into a roasting tin with some olive oil, pressed down with a potato masher gently just until the skin cracks open, and dusted with some medium curry powder and roasted till the skins crisp up.
The final touch was to make a sambol, a traditional accompaniment to Sri Lankan dishes. Whilst I have come across many different variations of sambol the core ingredients are coconut and chopped red chillis. To this I added cuisine coconut, lime juice and sriracha sauce. The balance of this accompaniment is so brilliant its like a sweet and sour sauce, but its sweet and hot! The sweetness comes first and the heat just after giving a wonderful experience on its own, let alone when you mix it with other foods which themselves complement it is their own unique ways.
Sri Lankan Dry Rub (taken from the ingredients list of the pre-made rub with added light brown sugar)
Coconut 25% (presumably desiccated)
Garlic (presumably powder)
Onion (presumably powder)
Lime Peel (presumably dried lime powder)
Light Brown Sugar
Sri Lankan Sticky Glaze
Sri Lankan Dry Rub (as above)
Sri Lankan Slaw