Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Buta Kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly)


Last weekend my hubby and I had a chance to get away from the kids for a little while to be on our own. So we decided to enjoy our date night dinner at this place called Ohshima Japanese cuisine. The place was recommended by one of my coworker and I'm so glad that I finally gave this place a chance because the food was so yummy-licious!
Beside the superb sushi with super fresh fish, one of the appetizer dish we ordered that made our palates danced was this Japanese braised pork belly called Buta Kakuni. My husband loved this dish so much that I decided to duplicate it for him at home. The taste and flavor came very close to the one that we tried at the restaurant and I got a thumb up from my judge. 
Buta Kakuni literally means "simmered-square pork". Traditionally it's served as an appetizer along with some alcoholic drinks, but in my opinion, it pairs really well with some green vegetables such as stir-fried bok choi and is perfect with a bowl of steamed rice for dinner. 
The taste and texture of the pork in this dish is very similar to the traditional Vietnamese dish called "thit kho tau" that we usually enjoy on "Tet" (Lunar New Year Day). The cooking technique is almost the same, the main difference in the seasoning is that Kakuni is seasoned with sake, mirin and soy sauce while the pork in the Vietnamese version is soaked in coconut water, fish sauce and sugar.
The braising liquid can be reserved in an air tight container and stored in the fridge for later uses as a seasoning sauce for fried rice or ramen broth. The cooking process may look intimidated due to the long cooking time it takes to simmer down the meat, but the end result is all worth it. I hope you will give it a try and enjoy it as much as we did!



Ingredients:

2 lbs pork belly (cut into 2-3 inch cubes)
3/4 cup of sake
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup of mirin (a Japanese sweeten cooking seasoning)
1 can of chicken broth or dashi broth
1/2 knob of ginger (sliced)
1-2 star anise (slightly roasted)
4 tbsp brown sugar and 4 tsp granulated sugar
2-3 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
1 tsp of mushroom seasoning and 1/2 tsp salt
4-5 boiled eggs
-  Season the pork with mushroom seasoning and salt.
-  In a medium saucepan, with no oil added, sear all sides of the pork cubes until nicely browned  under high heat, remove and set aside.
-  De-glaze the pan with chicken broth and sake, then transfer the broth into a medium pot.

- Next, add soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar and ginger/garlic into the pot (as seen in the upper picture)
- Add the pork cubes and simmer with a covered lid for 2 & 1/2 hrs. Check periodically and add more chicken broth or water as needed if the liquid has significantly evaporated.
- Add boiled eggs 30 min before finish. 
- Adjust the taste to your liking with the remaining granulated sugar.


- Stir fry some baby bok choi with minced garlic and season it with fish sauce. Make a bed of bok choi on a serving plate and arrange the pork cubes with sliced egg on top. Serve hot with steamed rice.


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