Japanese braised pork bellies, or buta kaku ni (豚角煮), is one of the best ways to enjoy pork belly. You may think that pork belly always yield oily dish, but with boiling, most of the fat and oil would have been washed away. The end result is a pork belly dish that is flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth tender.
What is buta kaku ni?
Translated word-for-word from Japanese to English:
- buta (豚) = pork
- kaku (角) = square
- ni (煮) = boiled/simmered
This dish is the most popular and most common way pork bellies are cooked and prepared in most Japanese households.
Originated in China as Dongpo Pork (东坡肉), the dish evolved as it made its way to Okinawa and eventually into main island of Japan through the port city of Nagasaki.
Pork belly in this dish is extremely melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the dashi and soy sauce-based sauce is rich with umami. You won’t hesitate to eat every single drop of the sauce with as much steamed rice as possible. In fact, the sauce is so good, people even dilute the sauce with dashi stock to create an epic sauce for a bowl of udon, aptly name buta udon.
What goes into this Japanese braised pork belly dish?
Buta kaku ni is a very simple homecooked family food in Japan. The ingredients for this dish are those that are common staple Japanese pantry ingredients.
We will need oil, pork belly cubes, ginger slices, pearl onions/French shallots, and frozen green peas/frozen edamames.
When you thinly slice the ginger, it is not necessary to peel the ginger as long as they are clean.
If you don’t have pearl onions or French shallots, you can also use Japanese long green onion (negi), cut into 2″ pieces.
For the sauce, we will need dashi, sake (Japanese rice wine), sugar, mirin, and soy sauce.
Dashi is a Japanese stock. You can use homemade dashi, or mix together 400 ml water with 1 teaspoon instant bonito dashi granules.
For the soy sauce, I highly suggest using low-sodium soy sauce if possible. Otherwise, the dish may end up too salty.
How do you cook Japanese buta kaku ni?
1. Sear pork bellies.
First, heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan and oil are hot, sear pork belly cubes evenly until all sides are brown. Set aside.
2. Boil pork bellies.
Place seared pork belly cubes in a pot, then add enough water to cover the pork. Simmer for 1 hour, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
3. Cook pork bellies with sauce.
Arrange pork belly cubes neatly in a clean pot with ginger, dashi, and sake. Cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add remaining sauce ingredients (sugar, mirin, and soy sauce) and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
4. Add vegetables.
Finally, add pearl onions/shallots and frozen green peas/edamame into the pot. Continue simmering for 5 minutes.
And the dish is done! At this point, simply turn off the heat, and divide the dish into 4 individual serving bowls. Serve the dish hot with steamed white rice.
A little resting time to improve the flavors
Buta kaku ni is very delicious eaten straight away, but if you are patience and are willing to wait overnight, you will be rewarded with an even more delicious dish!
You can store the cooked dish in an air-tight container in the fridge, then when you want to serve, you can easily remove any excess fat in the dish (if there’s any!). To serve, simply reheat the dish gently in a pot on a stovetop.
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