Season each short rib generously with salt and pepper. Coat the inside of Dutch oven, or a large, heavy-bottomed, ovenproof, lidded pan with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add ribs and brown well, 2-3 minutes per side. Don't overcrowd the pot; cook in batches if necessary. Remove to a plate. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together onion, celery, carrots, garlic, ginger, and cilantro until they form a coarse paste.
Discard all but 1 tablespoon oil from the pot. Season puréed vegetables generously with salt and cook until softened and very fragrant, 5-7 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, and water, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook until reduced by one-third. Stir in tamarind if you like.
Return ribs to pot. Add star anise and clove. Cover and cook in oven 3 hours; turn ribs over halfway through. Remove lid for last 20 minutes of cooking to let sauce reduce. When done, meat should be tender but not falling apart. Place ribs on a platter, skim off any fat from sauce, and pour any sauce over ribs.