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Old 05-25-2009, 04:48 PM   #1
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Japanese braised pork belly/Buta no kakuni

Hi there. A little while ago I was in London and went to Tosa and had this as a starter.

The thought of that much fat originally turned me off but it was surprisingly nice and very different, I'd never had anything quite like it really so when I got home I thought I'd have a crack at it.

I made it and it was probably the tastiest, most unctuous thing I've ever eaten in my life. I'd made a really big batch and we just couldn't stop until it was gone.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake I always, always seem to make when I do something really good and didn't pay any great amount of attention to what I was putting in. :(

Over the following couple of weeks I made it again and again, repeating what I thought I'd done and a couple of recipes I'd found on the net but never quite got the same infusion of flavour into the pork nor the strong, distinctive aromatic tang in the sauce.

What I do remember of the first time is, I slow cooked the mix overnight then left it to cool during the day. To serve it I warmed it through, siphoned off the broth then reduced it down with some star anise.

What little I do remember:

Did use a light soy sauce.
Did use a mix of pork and chicken stock as a base.
Did use demerera sugar
Did use star anise in the reduction.
Probably did use honey.
May have used star anise in the initial cook, but probably not.
May have used ginger.
May have used rice vinegar.
May have used garlic.
Didn't use rice wine.

Does anyone have any experience with this recipe? From what I gather it's something of a labour of love and I'm not sure my waistline could take another fortnight of test dishes. :D


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Old 05-26-2009, 05:20 AM   #2
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While I remember, I also didn't render/skim the fat off after the cool. Lots of recipes do this but it seems to reduce to 'moreishness' of the finished dish.

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Old 05-26-2009, 05:25 AM   #3
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Sorry, I'm not familiar with this dish at all. It does look and sound very tasty.

There are some Google hits. Have you checked those?
"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -Carl Sagan
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Old 05-26-2009, 01:16 PM   #4
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Hehe yeah I've looked at more recipes of this than of anything else I've ever made. The problem is, that while I can follow east-asian style recipes and the end product is always good, I don't really understand the ingredients they use.

Like, if there's specific kind of rice wine or rice wine vinegar to use for a certain kind of dish, or if certain spices/flavourings have to be added at a certain point during the cooking so the flavour is released correctly.

I think if I can understand the reasoning behind the original ingredient usage I may have a chance of reconstructing the original dish. I think I could with time systematically go through all the likeliest permutations, but I was hoping someone here may already have done something similar and so save my waistline.
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Old 05-26-2009, 04:35 PM   #5
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let me know when ya get it figured out--have maybe 4lbs of belly left in freezer after making pancetta--have to make something
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Old 05-28-2009, 12:43 PM   #6
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Well, in the absence of inspiration I'm going back to basics. I'm going to try a few straight recipes to compare the results and see what I can get out of it.

First off, a simple interpretation by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: BBC - Food - Recipes - Aromatic pork belly hotpot

Fingers crossed.
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Old 05-28-2009, 12:58 PM   #7
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LOVE braised pork belly!!!
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Old 05-29-2009, 03:27 AM   #8
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Elo, I sometimes have a brick of this, more or less, in my fridge. What can I say, I'm a ramen-boy.

It is a chore though, takes all day; salt pork doesn't work and a cut of belly with good skin is hard to find in grocery stores. You can think of it as "minding an osso bucco" - use rice wine, aka sake, and light soy sauce. Stock is your choice. More important is parsing the vinegar and sugar as it cooks. Tasting every half hour, or so. Easy on the vinegar; it will concentrate. Sugar is your choice, but it coagulates (I too like honey). Star anise works, so does cloves, ginger is a must. For the final hour, you can add a sprig or two of green onion.

Refrigerate, and then skim the thick layer of fat to be set aside and used as an oil to crisp your serving.

Remember, there is no such thing as over-cooking this. The more the pig belly's fat breaks down, the more it'll melt like butter in your mouth. The taste trick is restraint, in my opinion. Over-cooking it is good, but it also concentrates your choice of ingredients.

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