Stress free pork belly

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Crackling gives me anxiety.  Not eating it…god I love eating it (although it probably gives my arteries anxiety), but cooking it.  It’s one of those things that you’re never 100% sure how it’s going to turn out and if it’s not good then it’s probably one of the biggest kitchen disappointments….ever.

People’s advice on how to get crackling is so varied, who knows what to go with and who to trust… dry the skin, oil the skin, salt the skin, don’t oil the skin, throw hot fat on the skin and the weirdest article I read… baste it with pig sperm…(cue record scratch sound effect)….um what the?

I do have to say that I sometimes do my best work under a lot of pressure and when I last made pork belly, the crackling turned out amazing and all I could hear around the dinner table was the satisfied crunching of perfectly cooked crackling.  But you don’t want kitchen pressure all the time, so today I have an equally delicious way to cook pork belly, the way my mum used to cook it.  This dish is called ‘buta no kakuni’ – literal translation in japanese is ‘square simmered pig’ because the chunks of pork belly are cut into squares and braised in broth of soy, sugar, mirin and sake.

The process of cooking this dish is not difficult at all but it does take time however you will be rewarded with meltingly soft pork belly in a beautifully rich salty sweet glaze.

Buta no kakuni or ‘square simmered pig’

Serves 2 – just multiply recipe if need to serve more

What you need:

  • 500 g pork belly, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • vegetable oil/canola oil
  • 80 g ginger, peeled and roughly sliced
  • 375 ml super dashi (if using instant dash granules, use 1 tsp per 1 litre)
  • 85 ml sake
  • 40 ml mirin
  • 60 g dark brown sugar
  • 60 ml soy sauce
  • 2 sticks of spring onion, finely sliced

What to do:

In a heavy based saucepan large enough to fit the pork belly in one layer heat a splash of oil. Brown the pieces of pork belly on all sides (you may need to do two batches if your pan isn’t big enough).  Drain the pork belly in a colander and then rinse it under hot water to remove any excess oil.

Put the pork belly back in the saucepan with the slices of ginger and put enough water in the pan to cover the pork belly.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat so it’s down to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 2 hours.  Check it occasionally as you might need to top up the water to keep the pork covered.

Drain the pork and remove the ginger.  In another clean heavy-based saucepan (or just give the one you’re using a quick wash), bring the super dashi, mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar to a boil to dissolve the sugar.  Add the pork belly to the saucepan and bring it back to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.  Occasionally turn the pork.

Take the pan off the heat and allow the pork to rest in the sauce for about 15 minutes.  Place the pork in your serving dish and cover to keep warm.  Put the saucepan back on the heat and bring to a boil to reduce the sauce to a slight syrupy consistency.  Spoon the sauce over the pork and sprinkle with spring onion.  I served this with rice and some bok choy.


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  • Lauren

    Hi Jools! Would love to make this for my friends this weekend, quick question though, where does the soy come into play? Is it added with the water? Thanks!

    • http://www.merci-mama.com/ Jules

      Hi Lauren, sorry for the oversight and thanks for pointing it out! You just pop the soy in with the dash/mirin/sake mixture. Enjoy!!

  • Rhona Ellwood

    This looks beautiful, my husband would love it (but then the words “pork belly” are always a winner with him! Thanks for sharing :)

    • http://www.merci-mama.com/ Jules

      clearly how husband’s are very similar!

  • Mm groupie

    Hi honey, im in the final stages and it seems to have all fallen apart before it went not the mirin mix. Any tips to make sure it keeps its shape? Perhaps my simmer was up too high…. During the first 2 hours. Oh well here’s hoping it will still take ok!

  • peter jackson

    I made this at the weekend for my wife and son as we had picked up some belly pork on offer. I did not have any ginger for the boiling so substituted with two whole star anise and it was fantastic. Thanks so much for the recipe I have never seen three plates of pork and noodles go down so quick.

    • http://www.merci-mama.com/ Jules

      Hi Peter, love the addition of star anise. Whilst not traditionally japanese I think star anise adds a really lovely meaty flavour to food. I often add it to my bolognese and it really gives it that special something. Try it sometime!