Anise Back Ribs of Pork
In a heavy medium saucepan, cook the sugar over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until it melts and caramelizes to a rich brown. Add the soy sauce, garlic, star anise and ¼ cup of water. Stir until the caramel and soy are blended. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then pour into a wide-mouthed jar. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 years.
Put the pork ribs, garlic, onion, ginger and red pepper into a large flame-proof casserole. Cook over moderate heat until the pork is no longer pink, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the ketjap manis, salam leaves, laos root, star anise, brown sugar, vinegar and 3 ½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer, covered for 2 hours, or until the pork is tender and the sauce is thickened. Should the liquid evaporate too quickly, add another ½ cup of water. If the meat is cooked and the sauce is still thin, boil until the liquid is reduced to a light coating consistency. Skim any fat from the surface. Serve warm. This rich, aromatic dish is even better prepared two days in advance and refrigerated, or two weeks ahead and frozen. The fat can then be removed easily, and the dish rewarmed before serving.