Step 1Dry the ribs with paper towels and season very lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Step 2Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or a heavy, flame-proof casserole large enough to hold all the ribs in no more than two layers. When the oil is hot, brown the ribs on all sides in batches without crowding, removing them to a platter as they brown. Add more oil if necessary with successive batches.
Step 3While the ribs are browning, combine the soy sauce, vermouth, brown sugar and tomatoes in a bowl and stir until blended. Add the star anise and two-thirds cup water and mix well. Set aside.
Step 4When all the ribs are browned, pour off the fat and reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, ginger and 2-inch-long scallions to the pan, alternately tossing and pressing against the bottom of the pan for 1 minute to bring out the flavor. Return the ribs to the pan and pour the soy mixture over them. Bring to a simmer and cover.
Step 5Transfer to the oven and bake, turning the ribs occasionally if you like, until the meat is extremely tender when pierced with a fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours total.
Step 6Remove the ribs to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil to keep them warm. Discard the ginger and star anise and pour the sauce into a large, heatproof glass measuring cup or bowl. Let stand about 5 minutes to allow the fat to rise to the surface, then skim it off and discard. Reheat the sauce, season generously with pepper and pour over the ribs. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and serve hot.