You Should Never Order Spare Ribs At A Chinese Restaurant. Here's Why

We all have our favorite menu items when it comes to Chinese food, most of them arriving on our plates glazed in sticky sauces or wrapped in crispy, fried coatings. These things are luxuries you wouldn't normally prepare at home, and they're delicious. Plus, ordering from a restaurant means you're not saddled with a sink-load of dishes at the end of the night. 

Not all Chinese restaurant menu items are created equal, though. Some are not even authentically Chinese, like General Tso's chicken, and some, like Chinese spare ribs, are a nutritional black hole. A fortune cookie couldn't even predict the excessive amount of fat and calories packed into this dish. According to Livestrong, one 8-ounce serving of Chinese spare ribs checks in at 949 calories. That's almost half of many people's daily recommended caloric intake (via Health.gov), and it's only an appetizer! Let's not even talk about the 74 grams of fat. So, what exactly makes this dish so over-the-top? It's all in the ingredients.

Spare ribs contain a lot of natural fat

Let's take a look at the components of this Chinese restaurant classic: deep-fried pork spare ribs, and a sweet and savory sauce that just won't quit. It would be easy to assume the cooking method and that syrupy sauce are to blame for all the unhealthiness of this dish. However, the spare ribs themselves are actually responsible for two-thirds of the fat and calories, according to Calorie King. A 4-ounce portion of raw spare ribs contains 323 calories and 26 grams of fat. Double that to equal your traditional Chinese restaurant's 8-ounce serving, and you're looking at a whopper of an appetizer. 

Spare ribs come from the underbelly of the pig and contain more fat than meat, which explains why we're so entranced by this dish. We know, as King of the Coals reminds us, fat equals flavor. These things are delicious even before they go into the deep-fryer. Then, on top of all that succulent fried pork goes the sauce. Most Chinese spare rib sauce recipes, like those found on Food52, contain a combination of sherry, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. These ingredients are pretty innocuous on their own but they can really pack on the cals when added to rich, lardy spare ribs.

There are healthier options at a Chinese restaurant

So, spare ribs might top the list of things to avoid at the Chinese restaurant if you're watching your diet. As The Daily Meal points out, other calorie-laden items, like the craveable classic, General Tso's chicken, and heavenly, noodly lo mein, can be scratched from your list as well. (There are a few reasons to pass on the lo mein, actually.) 

We're not here to swing a wrecking ball through your Chinese food dreams, though, nor is your only healthy option steamed veggies and brown rice. Shrimp with lobster sauce, wonton soup, and beef and broccoli are all smart alternatives, says Shape, and they're certainly more exciting than plain ol' veggies and rice. 

If you're really in the mood for something saucy and indulgent (and you're up for doing the dishes), consider making your own Chinese food at home, where you can control the ingredients and the portion sizes. And for those days when only deep-fried pork, shellacked in sauce will do, an occasional splurge on Chinese spare ribs probably won't kill you.