Recipe: Spareribs humba

My mother had a stroke. Although not surprising at her age, the news came as a shock. She lost her ability to write and her memory and comprehension ability have been affected. 

Nanay lives on the island, hundreds of miles away from me. The best I can do from here is provide the financial means to have all the necessary tests and treatments done. And cry a lot.

But life goes on. I am back in the kitchen cooking dinner for my family especially for my young child suffering stomach flu.

Most of the recipes I know by heart are from my mother. She taught me to cook early on, since I was 10 for as long as I can remember. She passed down some of her recipes to me orally. Even the amount of ingredients aren’t measured precisely. 

My mother visits me regularly in the Netherlands and when she is here, she cooks dinner.  One day there was no meat left in the freezer but a pack of krabbetjes (spareribs). Since there’s still enough minatamis na bao (muscovado sugat melted in coconut milk), she made humba using spareribs.  Humba, a Filipino pork belly dish slowly stewed in the classic Filipino holy trilogy of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Unlike adobo, sweetness is the stronger taste among the three.

It was a hit. My husband, who can eat a kilo of spare ribs in one sitting, loved it. And so this dish had been a staple in my recipe list ever since. Krabbetjes are so cheap in the Netherlands so we could enjoy this dish as much as we can without worrying about the cholesterol that a normal humba brings.

Like my mother, I can’t give you exact measurements but I can provide an estimate. To measure the liquid,use a small coffee mug. 


  • 500 grm krabbetjes (spareribs)
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar (or matamis na bao if available)
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 teaspoon grounded pepper (more if you want it spicy)
  • 3 dried laurel leaves
  • 2 pcs chilies (optional)

1. In a deep pan, Combine spare ribs, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, laurel leaves and sugar. 
2. Smell if the combination is right. Obviously it should have a sweet, salty, sour-ish aroma. You put too much soy sauce if you get a piercing, overpowering smell. Of course you could dare dip your finger to taste. 
3. Marinate for 30 minutes.
4. Cook in a low heat for one hour or more. Sprinkle with pepper and add the chilies if desired. 

Your spareribs is done when the meat is falling off the bone. The liquid ingredients should have turned into a sticky sauce by this time. Serves two. Best eaten with rice.