Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Comfort Food - Butano Kakuni

Despite the hot weather (I think our brief “winter” is over now) I find myself suddenly craving for a Japanese dish called butano kakuni (豚の角煮). It’s basically a braised pork dish made with pork belly or any cut of pork with layers of fat and lean meat. It is not sophisticated food but it has to be done the right way with the right flavors in the broth. One of my favorite izakayas in Tokyo serves a very nice version covered in creamy mashed mountain potato. It has such a rich and complex flavor and the pork is so soft it literally melts in your mouth.

Lucky for me, I don’t have to go to my favorite Izakaya in Tokyo to eat this because while in Japan I started collecting recipes of my favorite Japanese food from magazines in preparation for the day that I would leave Japan. Butano kakuni being one of my favorites I have more than a few recipes on hand. After reading through all the recipes, I decided to combine a couple of them and make my own version with a few additions. First I added Japanese radish, or Daikon. When cooked with fish or meat for a long time it absorbs all the juices and flavors and becomes soft in texture. I often find myself eating more of the daikon than the meat itself. One other thing that goes really well with broiled meats is hard boiled eggs. It’s similar to daikon in its flavor absorbing properties and it bulks up the dish nicely.

This recipe takes a long time to make, but except for the initial step of browning the pork, most of it requires minimum supervision. You could get it started after lunch, and potter around the house taking care of other things while the pork stews away on the stove. The best thing is that it could be prepared ahead. In fact it tastes even better the next day or two days later. What’s more, you could chill the dish and skim off the fat the next day before reheating, making it healthier. Some people think that pork belly is too fatty, but surprisingly it is not greasy at all when done. As Jason always says, “The fat is all cooked away!”

Here’s the recipe and as simple food goes, it’s best eaten simply with a bowl of white rice and some steamed green vegetables. How’s that for comfort food that is healthy!

Japanese Braised Pork Belly/Butano Kakuni

2 x 400g pork belly strips
700g Japanese radish
radish leaves, if available
4 hard boiled eggs, with slits cut into them
6cm piece of ginger, sliced, with skin on
1 dried red chili
1 leek, green parts only, do not cut
100ml sake
2 tbsp sugar
100ml Japanese dark soy sauce

1. Peel radish and cut into 2cm thick half-moon shaped slices
2. Cut radish leaves into 4cm long and blanch in boiling water
3. Heat up Teflon coated frying pan over med heat. Place pork belly strips into pan and brown on all sides, wiping off oil with paper towel once in a while.
4. Place radish pieces into pan with pork and stir fry briefly so that radish is covered in oil. Remove radish and set aside.
5. Place pork, ginger, chili and green part of leek into a heavy pan. Add 600ml of water and heat over med-high heat. Once boiled skim off foam and cover with lid.
6. Let simmer for 1 hour, stop the fire and let sit with lid on for another hour
7. Remove pork and sieve stock into a clean bowl. Measure out 300ml and return to cleaned pot, along with sake and sugar.
8. Cut each belly strip into 4 pieces and place into pot.
9. Heat over med-high heat until boils. Then cover and simmer for 10 min
10. Add soy sauce, cover with parchment paper lid (otoshibuta) and then pot lid and simmer for another 50 min. Add radish and hard boiled egg to pot for the last 40 min.
11. Add radish leaves to pot and stir before serving.

This is an entry to the Monthly Mingle Comfort Food. Check out what other comfort food that people are cooking up =o)


frank tastes said...

I really enjoy these types of slow-cooked, comfort food. Will definitely try this (with pork belly too, of course).

Does "Japanese radish" mean daikon? Also, if I don't have sake, can I substitute it with mirin and omit the sugar?

Lynn said...

Hi Frank! Thanks for stopping by =o)

Japanese radish is indeed daikon. I think if you don't have sake it's better to use a dry white wine. Mirin is an entirely different taste, but of course you can try it also.

Amrita said...

Looks great and I heart your plates, bowls and cutlery!

Lynn said...

Thank you! plates: Ikea, soup bowl: flea market in Tokyo, rice bowl: Daiso, cutlery: a store in Shanghai =o)

Peony said...

just have a view of your foto in flickr.

they are so lovely.
I enjoyed looking at them, esp those on Japan. Bring back lots of happy memories.


MeetaK said...

This has been such a great MM I am so enjoying seeing everyone's comfy food. Lynn this looks so delish!

Aileen said...

Hi there Lynn!

I saw an old issue of Food n Travel and saw your pix in it! I was just curious, how do you stay soooooo slim when you cook all these yummy treats which I am sure are not low in fat!! hehe..thanks so much

Lynn said...

peony, I'm glad you like the photos =o)

Meeta, can't wait to see the round-up!

Aileen, which issue of F&T is that? I've gotta keep better track of my media coverages =oP

Anyway, I'm not THAT slim, but if you must know, I guess a combination of portion control and having lots of volunteers willing to try the stuff I churn out helps ;o)

valailuk said...

Can we use the slow cooker to cook this recipe? Any suggestion?

Lynn said...

You could definitely use a slow cooker, but you'll still need to cook the pork first before adding the seasoning ingredients, and the radish needs to be added toward the end. So it's not one of those slow-cooker dishes where you can dump everything in, and have a nice meal when you are home from work =o(

valailuk said...

I'll definitely try it! So if I use slow-cooker, do I have to reduce water from 600 ml to 300 ml as the liquid isn't evaporate as the water in the
slow-cooker doesn't evaporate as much as normal cooking method?

Lynn said...

Good point. Although, with the drop lid and the pot lid, not much liquid seemed to have evaporated. You do need enough liquid to almost cover all the ingredients though so they are nicely flavored.