Carmen Suen's specialty and family favorite is her sweet vinegar...

Carmen Suen's specialty and family favorite is her sweet vinegar ribs. Credit: Veronique Louis

Carmen Suen is a digital marketing specialist at Island Federal Credit Union. She and her husband, Gary, live in Stony Brook with their two sons, ages 8 and 14.


How did you get interested in cooking?

Growing up in Hong Kong, I used to hang out in the kitchen with my mom. She took me with her to the market every day. It was a normal practice to shop every day for the freshest food. I started helping her cook when I was about 8 years old. She is a good cook, although when she first got married, she didn’t know how to cook. She watched a lot of cooking shows and became very good.


How did you come to live in the United States?

I came here when I was 32 after marrying my husband, Gary. He’s an American who worked as a chef at a hotel in Hong Kong, and I was a food writer. My good friend was the PR director at the hotel and she introduced us.

Carmen Suen's specialty and family favorite is her sweet vinegar...

Carmen Suen's specialty and family favorite is her sweet vinegar ribs, photographed at her home in Stony Brook. April 28, 2018. Credit: Veronique Louis


What cuisines do you cook?

It’s a large range. I cook Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and basic American meals like mac and cheese, plus stews and soups like a Moroccan stew or a French ragout. I use the Instant Pot a lot. I love it. It really cuts the cooking time down to a third. Because I work during the day, I couldn’t make a lot of these meals without it.


Any sign the cooking gene might get passed on?

Yes, both boys have shown an interest. My older son took an international food class last year at Murphy Junior High School and loved it. He’s been making fried rice, yaki udon, and cheesecake. My younger son likes to help me when I’m baking. Everyone should learn how to cook. It’s a great life skill. And when you cook, you tend to eat healthier.


Tell us about this recipe

Sweet Vinegar Ribs is something I cook for company. I serve it buffet style with other Chinese foods and steamed rice and vegetables.

SWEET vinegar ribs


Half rack of pork ribs

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 (1-inch piece) of fresh ginger, whole and peeled

4 cloves garlic, mashed

2 shallots, whole

4 tablespoons dark soy sauce

4 tablespoons regular soy sauce

 12 cup Chinese black vinegar

 12 cup rock sugar or regular granulated sugar

1 cup chicken stock or water

1 cup Chinese Shaoxing wine

2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

2 teaspoons sesame oil


1. Trim excess fat off ribs and make a very shallow cut the length of each rib (between bones).

2. Heat vegetable oil in a broad-bottom pot and brown the rack, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove rack from pan and rinse with hot water to remove excess fat.

3. Wipe the pan with a paper towel to remove excess fat.

4. Put ginger, garlic, shallot, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chicken stock, wine and salt in the pot and bring to a boil.

5. Put ribs in the sauce and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes.

6. Remove lid and adjust seasonings (add sugar and/or salt, if necessary).

7. Take ribs out and set aside. Reduce sauce to a thick consistency, add sesame oil and mix well. Return the ribs to pan and coat with sauce. Makes 4 servings.

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