Ribs in Japan? Sourcing the Rack

While chopstick mastery for a foreigner is to be politely applauded, and exercising different (hand) muscles would be in line with primal guidelines, there comes a time* when you need to pick up your food using “nature’s chopsticks” (ie bones) and tear into it like our ancestors.

Australia doesn’t have the ribs culture that my North American friends seem to take for granted. My mother never cooked them and I never chose them at a restaurant because my impression was that they were expensive and mostly bone, and you always end up being the only person eating in their fingers.

Fortunately Tokyo has a few decent options for eat-out pit-style ribs, but what if you want to make these badboys yourself?

One of the things I noticed when I first arrived in Japan was how, besides chicken, pretty much all the meat at the supermarket here is bone-free. The thinly-sliced shabu-shabu meat I understand (and mince, obviously), but to find out that I couldn’t get a steak or roast with a bone still attached was quite a shock. I don’t think I even saw a rack of ribs for my first 12 months here but now I know that while it requires bit more hunting and foraging there are still a few options out there.


If you have access to a Costco then why are you even reading this? You probably also have a massive oven and no doubt eat ribs several times a day. What’s that? I can’t hear you because you have some show-off caught in your teeth.

Costco does a 35cm strip of baby back ribs for about 2200 yen.

Specialty Supermarkets

Tokyo has a couple of supermarkets where you can walk in off the street and pick up a raw rack of yum. But bring your wallet – these stores are expensive! I’ve seen racks being sold at Nissin World Delecatessen and National Azabu.

Meat Guy

For those of you not near a Costco, and not near a specialty supermarket, I’m afraid your only option might be Meat Guy. Actually, that’s not quite fair – Meat Guy has an awesome range, albeit a little expensive.

Poor Man’s Ribs – Hanamasa

Once again my favourite oroshi supermarket comes to the rescue. For some reason Hanamasa has always stocked bone-in Canadian Pork ribs but they are not in “rack” form – they’re already cut, probably assuming customers barbeque them along with their other yakiniku-style strips of meat. It’s like, all the pieces are there – meat, bone and fat – but there’s just something not right about having them pre-cut like this.

(Depending on the store you go to you may be able to request them uncut and they’ll go out back and prepare them for you. The one at Shinkawa offers this service).

I get these from time to time, and while I have an oven I also developed a utilitarian slow cooker recipe for when you need no-fuss ribs in your mouth or have a similar ribs-based emergency.


* weekly occurrence

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Posted in Eat
One comment on “Ribs in Japan? Sourcing the Rack
  1. […] Ribs 1.8kg (less works, more works too. Just adjust the cooking time accordingly) […]


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