Buta No Kakuni, Japanese Braised Pork Belly

Filed Under: Pork

I had no idea I missed Chinatown as much as I did last Friday when I made a trip during a break from the office. I stopped by my favorite meat market on Mulberry and saw how beautiful all the pork belly were and took home 8 pounds’ worth.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling refreshed so I was quite disappointed that it was cloudy outside. I set up in the kitchen and started to boil the pork belly, still imagining different recipes in my head. I left my apartment for some fresh air to make up my mind. On my way home late in the afternoon, there was a perfect chill in the air and I immediately craved the pork belly waiting at home braised, just like they do in those quiet Japanese restaurants. All I had to do was pick up a bottle of sake and an envelope of konbu , or dried kelp.

I cooked some sticky rice and washed off the dirt from my remaining ramps stash. In a heated skillet, I added some olive oil and waited for it to smoke a bit. I flash-fried the ramps and drizzled in some of the buta no kakuni liquid to tame the strong onion flavor. When it dried up, I quickly picked them up with tongs and put them on top of the warm rice. A large chunk of pork belly accompanied them plus more of the soy-flavored liquid.

For the second seating of Not Just Eggs the next day, I roasted some Brussels sprouts and Peewee potatoes and used them as a bed for the pork. They held up while the pork beautifully fell apart and the poached egg yolks oozed their way down the sides. I heard a lot of mmms while the six guests were eating and that made me a very happy host.

For dinner, I strained the first batch of pork belly cooking liquid to make my broth and served the belly with noodles, plus steamed bok choy and, yes, another poached egg. It’s the pork belly that kept on giving!

Any way you serve your buta no kakuni, don’t be shy about pouring in the thickened soy-flavored cooking liquid as sauce.

Ingredients:
4 large pork belly, chopped in large squares, washed thoroughly
2 cups of sake
3 sheets of konbu
3 knobs of ginger, peeled
1/3 cup of raw cane sugar
1/2 cup of soy sauce

1. In a large Dutch oven, submerge pork belly in enough water and bring to a boil with 1/2 cup of the sake. Skim off impurities that float to the top.
2. Lower heat and simmer for an hour, covered. Turn off the heat and let cool, uncovered.
3. Transfer the pork belly to a colander and rinse under warm running water. (Save pork belly water in another container for future soups.) Return and submerge the pork belly in the pot again with enough water and let boil–this time with the konbu, ginger, sugar and the rest of the sake. Gently stir to distribute the sugar. Lower the heat and simmer for another hour, covered.
4. Add the soy sauce and continue to simmer for another hour. The soy-flavored liquid should reduce and thicken a bit and the pork should fall off when gently prodded by chopsticks.

Related post/s:
A similar Chinese version of braised pork belly uses rice wine instead of sake