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CoverStory Birth of the Bon Bon Thunder Bay’s One and Only Bon Bon Spare Rib By Kim Latimer M y egg rolls and chicken chow mien have a long-standing inferi- ority complex. Another dish has always stolen the show—the bon bon spare rib. These plump, lightly coated, crispy pork short ribs are typically seasoned in Chinese spices and spritzed with lemon. True to their name, the ribs do go down like candy when paired with local craft beer but you’ll only find them here in Thunder Bay. Oh, the bon bon spare rib. It’s sacrilege to order Chinese without them. And this Chinese-Canadian was created right here in Thunder Bay in 1946 by a local Chinese restaurant owner named Lam Pang. “He came from Taishan, a coastal city in south- ern Guangdong province of China,” says his daughter Gilda Pang-Allard. “He came to Thunder Bay when he was a boy and later learned to cook on the ships. Then he opened his own restaurant called Pang’s.” Pang experimented with the two-inch short ribs while catering a house party. Obviously, they were a hit. “The story I’ve heard is that he needed something quick and fast to serve the guests who were still drinking beer into the night,” says Shi Ping Chen (known as Ping), a family friend of Pang’s and owner of the Fort William Curling Club Chinese restaurant. “They are perfect with beer.” Pang naturally decided to put them on his menu. Soon all of the Chinese restau- rants in town were offering bon bons. Now they are an expectation on any Thunder Bay Chinese menu. There’s even a wee bit of competition to serve the best bon bons. “Each restaurant does it slightly differ- ently. Our bon bons are very popular. At Fort William Curling Club, we go through 150lbs of them a week,” says Chen. It’s a far cry from the traditional Chinese ribs that are usually steamed with black beans, Pang-Allard says. Even she has worked to improve her father’s recipe with her own unique mix of spices and her own ginger sauce. “My father would plan the New Year’s Eve menu a week before Christmas and there were always bon bons,” she says. “I still make them for our family every New Year’s Eve.” Bonspiel Bon Bons By Chef Rachel Globensky S o, what if I told you you could make your own bon bon spare ribs at home? Easy peasy lemon squeezy! (Spoiler alert: that’s an important step right at the end!) Bon Bon Spareribs Feeds six-ish 6 lbs pork back ribs, sweet and sour cut (cut in half or thirds) Ask the butcher nicely to cut your racks of ribs in half or thirds, depending on how long the ribs are. The riblets should be about 2” long. 2 eggs, beaten 2 tsp soy sauce 2 tsp rice wine, not rice wine vinegar 2 tsp sugar 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder 1 tsp salt 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp onion powder ½ tsp white pepper Measure all marinade ingredients (including eggs) into a zippie bag, and mix around. Add in riblets, and close the bag tight. Massage the marinade around the ribs for a few minutes, and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but overnight works, too. 1 cup flour 2 cups fine saltine crumbs* When you’re ready to get cookin’, take the ribs out of the eggy mixture and let the excess drip off before rolling in cracker crumbs and flour. *whizz some soda crackers around in your food processor or blender, until very fine—almost like corn meal. Mix the flour and cracker meal together, and, one by one, coat the ribs in the dry stuff. Let the ribs air dry on a wire cooling rack while you wait for your deep fryer to warm up to about 350°F (177°C). Deep fry ribs, a few at a time, until the temperature of the meat reaches 145°F (63°C), and you can see blood coming out of the end of the bones (sorry, but you asked!). Once you have a plate of them ready, squeeze some lemon on top of the deliciousness and dig in! The Walleye 13