I had some braised pork belly when I was in Japan, it was succulent and just melted in my mouth. I googled this dish and found that it was called kakuni. Kakuni is a Japanese braised pork dish which literally means “square simmered" – cubes of pork belly are simmered for a long time with dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake.
There are many different recipes for kakuni, some require days of preparation and cooking. I took elements of recipes which sounded like it would work well and attempted to cook some kakuni.
• ~ 1 kg pork belly, cut into cubes
• 1 piece of kombu seaweed
• 1 medium sized daikon, grated with liquid (approx 3 cups)
• 1.5 inch piece of ginger, grated
• ¼ cup sugar
• ½ cup sake
• 3 tablespoons mirin
• ¼ cup soy sauce (kikkoman brand)
• 2 cups dashi stock
Put piece of kombu in a pot of cold water. Soak the kombu for 30 minutes.
Add pork cubes into the pot of water with kombu and slowly bring to boil over medium/low heat. Once it reaches boil, take the piece of kombu out and discard. Allow the pork to simmer for another 2-3 minutes, then drain the pork and rinse.
Mix the grated daikon and ginger together. In a heatproof dish, place a third of the grated diakon/ginger mixture over the bottom of the dish. Place the pork cubes on top of the grated daikon/ginger and cover with the remaining diakon/ginger.
Place the dish over a steamer and steam for 2-3 hours (replenish the steaming water as necessary). The steaming flavours and tenderizes the pork.
Once the pork can be easily pierced with a skewer, remove the dish from the steamer. Place the pork cubes in a bowl of lukewarm water, gently rinse the pork cubes and let cool.
Refrigerate the pork cubes for a few hours or overnight.
Add sugar, sake, mirin and soy sauce to a large heavy bottomed pot/dutch oven. Add cool, steamed pork cubes and toss the pork around so it gets coated with the sauce, then add in 2 cups of dashi stock and simmer for 2-3 hours, turning the pork occasionally for even flavoring and coloring. The pork pieces should all fit in one layer.
Now it’s ready to eat!
After all the simmering, the pork should be very tender and be covered with a thick dark glaze (a reduction of the braising liquid). It’s great with some hot steamed rice.
Was quite happy with the result, there was a lovely depth of flavour where every stage of the cooking process – blanching, steaming and braising infused different flavours into the pork.
Now that I have a basis for this dish, I definitely want to experiment with the flavours the next time I cook it – toying with the ideas of adding some star anise and also some fresh chillies into the braising liquid to add a hint of heat to the pork.
Kakuni tastes much better the next day as the pork cubes absorb more flavour.
Pork belly is one of my favourite things to cook, but seriously who can refuse pork belly?
Here are some of my other pork belly recipes: