Nagasaki-Style Braised Pork: Buta Kaku-ni

Braised pork belly, buta kaku-ni, is a special occasion dish—so very rich and succulent that one wouldn’t eat it everyday. Today is this blog’s third birthday so celebrate with me! It’s Thanksgiving Day, and while it’s too late for you to make this recipe for the holiday, it would be perfect to serve as an appetizer for your other holiday parties. Cut it into small cubes and use toothpicks to dip into the mustard and sauce. Or better still, make small buns and fill them with the braised pork.
Pork belly is a boneless cut of fatty meat from the belly of a pig. When whole, the belly has a thick and a thin end, with the ribs attached to the thick end. In the United States, it is most often used to make bacon. Throughout Asia it is used in many recipes.
Kakuni is a meibutsu (famous regional product) associated with the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, and in particular, the city of Nagasaki. Its famously soft texture and sweet soy flavor has endeared it to people across Japan, and it can now be found on izakaya menus throughout the country. For more information, check out my previous post.

Nagasaki-Style Braised Pork
Buta Kaku-ni 角煮
page 435
4 servings

  • 3 cups peeled and grated daikon, with juice
  • 1 ½ pounds unsalted pork flank
  • one 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • one 4-inch piece of kombu, soaked in 1 quart of water for 1 hour
  • ½ cup saké
  • 3 Tablespoons mirin
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 7 ounce bunch spinach
  • 1 Tablespoon thin hot mustard paste

Set a steamer over plenty of water in a deep pot over high heat.
Use a deep, heat-proof dish which will fit into the steamer. Put one-third of the grated daikon on the bottom of the pot. Put the pork on top of the daikon, and cover the pork with the remaining daikon. Cover the container with plastic wrap, and transfer it to the hot steamer. Cook the pork over high heat for 2 hours. During the cooking, occasionally check the level of water in the pot, and add boiling water as necessary.
Place a bowl of lukewarm water in the sink. Remove the container of pork from the steamer, put the pork into the lukewarm water, and rinse the pork gently and thoroughly. Drain the pork, and wipe it dry with paper towels. Cut the pork into 2-inch crosswise slices. At this point you can refrigerate the pork, covered, for as long as one day.
Scatter the ginger slices in a pot large enough to hold the pork in one layer. Lay the pork on the ginger slices.
Remove the kombu from its soaking liquid, and add the liquid to the pot, discarding the kombu. Add the saké and mirin. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low, and cook at a gentle simmer, covered with a drop lid for 30 minutes.
Add the shoyu, and cook for 20 minutes, turning the pork several times for even flavoring and coloring. At this point you can refrigerate the pork, covered, for use later in the day. If you do, reheat the pork, covered, over very low heat before proceeding with the recipe.
Add the sugar to the pork, and cook, uncovered, over very low heat for 3 to 5 minutes. By this time the sauce should be quite thick. If not, remove the pork and ginger, and cook the sauce a little more to reduce it.
In a medium pot of boiling water, parboil the spinach for 1 minute. Cool the spinach in ice water, and drain it. Cut the spinach into 2-inch lengths.
Arrange the spinach on a large platter. Place the pork on top, and drizzle it with the sauce left in the pot. Garnish the dish with a little mound of mustard paste on the edge of the platter.

Page 2, Samuel Beckett and the joy of living…

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