Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Recipe: Buta no Kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly)

Buta no Kakuni is a traditional Japanese way of cooking pork belly, and the name kakuni (角煮) literally translates to "square simmered", referring to the shape of the pork. In Japan, it is usually served as an appetizer with beer or sake or as a main with rice and greens.

Buta no Kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly)

Simmering (nimono) is a common Japanese cooking method, whereby the stock which usually includes dashi, mirin, sake and soy imparts a delicate flavour to the food. A special drop-lid (otoshi-buta) which fits inside the pan and covers the ingredients is traditionally used to ensure all the food is submerged in the stock. Alternatively, a circle of baking paper will suffice.

Buta no kakuni is similar is appearance and texture to the Chinese version of braised pork belly (also known as tau yew bak or loh chu yuk). The Chinese version is much easier to make and in my opinion, slightly more flavourful (oh and you can douse your rice with lots of the delicious sauce). The Japanese version's sauce is sweeter and I think it is only meant for dipping your pork in. Nevertheless, the texture of the pork belly is so tender and the fat layers literally melt-in-the-mouth.

For buta no kakuni, the pork belly is first cut into square chunks (my butcher was selling the pork in 1" strips so I had no choice but to cut it in rectangular chunks), then lightly browned. Then, the pork is placed in a pot of water with ginger and spring onion and cooked for 2 hours. This process is to render out majority of the fats and produce the melt-in-the-mouth texture. After the initial simmering, the pork is further cooked with dashi, sake, mirin, soy sauce and sugar for another 1 hour. I served the kakuni with boiled eggs (same as when I serve my Chinese version). Baby C loved the boiled eggs very much. You can also serve it with ramen (see here).

Japanese sweet braised pork belly

Kakuni tastes better the next day, once it has had the chance to absorb more flavour. Glad that I made double portion so we got to enjoy it for two consecutive days.

Baby D gives it his seal of approval

Buta no Kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly)
Recipe by Baby Sumo, adapted from Japanese Bible
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 3 1/2 hours
Serves 6 as a main

1 tbsp cooking oil
900g boneless pork belly, cut into 2x1 inch strips
2 inch old ginger, thinly sliced
2 spring onion, cut into 2 inch lengths

1 cup dashi stock II
1/2 cup sake (Japanese rice wine)
3 tbsp mirin (sweet cooking wine)
1/2 cup Japanese soy sauce
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1 cup water

To garnish
1 spring onion (white parts only), thinly sliced on the diagonal
Hard boiled eggs, peeled (one per person)

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add half the pork. Cook for 5 minutes, until the pork is lightly browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.Repeat for remaining pork.

2. Place pork, ginger, spring onion and 1L of water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours, adding extra water if needed to keep the pork covered in liquid. Remove the pork and reserve the liquid for other uses.

The pork belly - after 2 hours

3. Put the dashi, sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and water into a clean saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pork, return to the boil and reduce heat to a low simmer. Place a drop-lid or circle of baking paper over the ingredients to keep them covered and simmer the pork for 1 hour, until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup and pork is very tender.

4. Add hard boiled eggs to the saucepan 30 minutes before it is ready for it to soak up some of the flavour of the sauce.

5. Garnish the pork belly with the spring onion and serve along with eggs, rice and greens as a main.

1. Once cooled, the pork belly can be stored in the fridge to absorb flavours and it will be easier to skim off the fat layers.
2. If you do not have time to make dashi stock from scratch, you can substitute with dashi sachets.

Presentation inspired by Nami

Thumbs up from the kids!

*I am submitting this to the Little Thumbs Up "Soy Beans" event organized by Bake for Happy Kids, my little favourite DIY and hosted by Mich of Piece of Cake. You can link your soy recipes here.

*I am also submitting this to Cook-Your-Books #5 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours and to Asian Food Fest #1 Oct 2013 : Japan hosted by Alan from travelling-foodies.

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  1. I love this so much! Aiyo, I'm hungry now!

  2. Seem like everyone is cooking this dish. It sure is delicious. We can have this with rice or with mantou, absolutely delicious!

  3. Hi Yen, What a mouth-watering dish! I love pork belly! Sinful yet so delicious!
    Thanks for linking!

  4. Super tender pork belly. Very flavourful and delicious!

  5. this is one of my favorite things to order at japanese restaurants. and your version looks positively wonderful :D

  6. Ooooo...I'd love that a lot! Slurpssss!!!!

  7. Your japanese style 'tau yew bak' looks delicious!

  8. Hi Yen,

    I can imagine.... Your Jap style braised pork belly must be very flavorsome :D


  9. Yen, you & Alvin have 6th sense coz you guys have posted the same recipe today! I like this kind of dish & it looks similar to our chinese braised pork belly hoh?

    1. Yes, very similar. But the cooking method for Chinese version is easier.

      Good dish to cook this month since can submit to AFF and LTU :)

  10. Mmm I do so love this dish! And how serendipitous that you posted the recipe just after I ate it! :D

  11. Lovely dish! Mouth-watering! Now I feel like joining in the crowd to make this as well!

  12. yummm.... hope to try this recipe soon.. I gotta go buy mirin..

    love love love Baby D's video... :)

  13. I've got everything except sake and pork belly lol It looks very tempting , Yen ! Baby D's seal of approval is all I need :D

  14. Yen, this is totally delicious!


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