Asian Style Lamb Ribs And The Laws Of Supply and Demand.

Asian Lamb Riblets (1 of 3)It’s a very long time since I studied economics. One of its cornerstones is the law of supply and demand. Simply put, it states that as demand increases the price does likewise. This then encourages new market entrants which increase supply, bringing the price back to where it started. In macroeconomic terms, this works pretty well. In the tiny world of retail that I occupy, this law doesn’t apply. So often, I have my enquiries rebuffed by slovenly sales staff with “No, there’s no demand for them.” or the one that really boils my ageing blood “No, there’s no demand for them any more.”. If I were looking for something like a set of E-180 cassettes or a pair of long johns with a trapdoor, I might not find this so upsetting. But, when I’m looking for lamb ribs in a butcher’s shop, I get pretty irate. “We used to sell them but it’s only the Chinese who eat them now.” was what the spotty youth in fancy dress said to me. 

That one sentence managed to convey three things to me. He has racist leanings. Despite the garb, he is no butcher. And lastly, but not least importantly, he is no economist either. I left and rang a friend who is a butcher. He confirmed what we know. The ribs are on sale in some Asian restaurants. Not many people ask for them in Irish butchers. There is a market opportunity. So, for all you real butchers (and your customers), here’s a simple recipe for Asian Style Lamb Ribs.

Asian Lamb Riblets (1 of 4)

Not a lot of ingredients. Best to keep it simple for the uninitiated.


  • 12 lamb riblets (presented in twins, as in the photo).
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (heaped) of dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (level) of oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (level) of tomato paste

Mix all the ingredients except the lamb in a large saucepan.

Asian Lamb Riblets

This, like so much of what I do, hardly qualifies as a recipe.

Heat until boiling. Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce gets nice and thick.

Asian Lamb Riblets

This boils like a volcano. It is highly aromatic.

Turn off the heat and add the ribs. Let them marinate in the marinade for a couple of hours.

Asian Lamb Riblets (4 of 4)

One would be tempted to eat them raw.

Heat an oven to 200ºC. Add the ribs on a rack and cook for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting into individual ribs and serving with some sliced chilli.

Asian Lamb Riblets

Now I know why the Asians have been keeping quiet about them. Delicious!

These fantastic little ribs are a real treat. You have to get your hands on them. If you have a real butcher, he or she will be happy to sell you some at a great value price. If, when you ask, all you get is a blank stare and a stupid answer, get yourself out of there and find a real butcher. There are still a few of them around.

Footnote for butchers: The laws of supply and demand suggest that if you display these, there will be some demand. Hopefully, you can capitalise on that demand and supply your customers with something they want and can’t get from the futchers (fake butchers).

Footnote for butchers’ customers: Get your butcher to read the footnote above. They will stock the ribs. You should buy them. They are really fantastically delicious (said he, modestly). 

Asian Lamb Riblets (1 of 3)

I had a spare shot of the ribs. It would have been uneconomic to waste it.

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Latest comments
  • What a gorgeously glossy picture of the ribs in their sauce, it’s making my mouth water. Those look great … shows what a good cook can do with a cheap cut.

  • They look amazing and when last year’s little darlings head of to university in a month or so I will certainly ask the butcher to butcher it so that there are ribs with meat on them.

  • I doubt it will surprise you to know that until this post, I did not know that lambs had ribs. It did however surprise me, because I am from the country and would be laughed out of it for not knowing this sort of thing. They don’t eat them down there either, though.

      • Well, as long as my concerns are front and centre, I think we’re all happy.

  • I’m totally with you on the annoyance factor of “there’s no demand…” My invariable response is “I am MAKING a demand, so clearly this is not correct”. It’s amazing how many perfectly ordinary things there’s ‘no demand’ for when the retailer is an idle sort… Minced lamb, for example, which I’ve had to resort to buying in bulk. I hope you’ll forgive me for using your delicious sauce on a different animal, since it’ll be a while till we get another half hogget for the freezer.

  • They look delicious – you’ll be annoyed to hear that they are easy to come by in London 😉

        • It could be their northern pedigree 😉

  • I have never eaten lamb ribs, I’d imagine they are delicious. Yours certainly look like they are. I can almost taste the sauce.
    I’m sure I could get you some E-180 cassettes if you’re stuck. You’re on your own for the long johns 😉

  • Gorgeous riblets! I can probably find a futcher in my area, but butchers are few and far between.

  • The sticky glaze looks delicious Conor. Lamb ribs are making a comeback here, I’ve seen them on several menus recently so I guess it’s only a matter of time before even the supermarket has them. Such is the way of the world

  • Sandra is so much more knowledgeable than I that I’ll surely take her word about the delicious lamb riblets. Not available here yet to the best of my knowledge . . .Love your recipe, love that you have looked our way again and am surprised lamb seems popular in China : for me that is pork and chicken and sometimes beef country!! What one learns on an Irish blog 🙂 ! Am smiling also about your recollections about doing economics!!! Somehow, besides all else, have two years under my belt too . . . also with lifelong recollections about some of the macroeconomics axioms 🙂 !!

  • Lamb ribs are so delicious. A little hard to find here, too, sadly.

  • My butcher would have these if I ask for them, but he normally debones the breast (as that is what he calls it) and cuts up the meat for lamb shawarma (as there is demand for that). You should try the same recipe with the ribs cooked sous-vide (with the marinade) for 24 hours at 57C/135F. And then just a brief sear (perhaps on a very hot charcoal grill?). I’ll try your marinade next time I make lamb breast (or ribs, if I ask the butcher before he debones it).

  • Would you believe that I have seen lamb riblets in our market here but there didn’t appear to be any meat what so ever on them. I’ll have to look more closely.

  • Hi Conor,
    A friend gave me some lamb for my dog as he had bought a side and was not happy with the quality. I used your marinade on a section of ribs (flap) and cooked them sous-vide as per Stefan’s instructions, then on the BBQ, just to see if I could do something with a pretty average quality cut. They turned out delicious.
    Thank you very much.
    The dog got the bones.

    Tim O’Brien
    Margaret River

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