Kakuni (角煮) is Japanese braised pork belly, and it literary means “square simmered” referring to the shape of this dish. I’m not usually into fatty meat but there is something about this dish that I cannot resist. No, not just because eating collagen is good for beauty …okay, that’s part of it (the pork belly is loaded with collagen, which is good for your skin and complexion*). Cooking slowly turns the meat into a delicious creation.
For my day to day cooking, I enjoy experimenting with existing recipes to see if I can improve them. I had been cooking this Kakuni recipe until one day my husband asked if the meat can be softer after I made it. I kept experimenting different methods and changing the ingredients’ portions, and I think I finally got the recipe that will melt in your mouth.
The key for good Kakuni recipe is the initial simmering. For this recipe, I spent 2-3 hours of simmering the meat, but you could spend additional hours doing so if you have the time. This important process renders out the majority of fat from the pork belly and makes the meat and the fat have that melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Although it takes hours of preparation (unless you have a pressure cooker) which requires you to stay around the kitchen, the result is really worth it. If you plan to cook this for your family, I would recommend you to make double portion. Since you have to spend hours in the kitchen anyway, you might want to make extra for a second meal. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.
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- Pound the pork on both sides with a meat pounder (or edge of knife (not the sharp side)).
- Then mold the meat back into the original shape with your hands, and then cut into 2 inch pieces.
- Heat oil on the heavy skillet over medium high heat and put the fattiest part on the bottom. Cook the meat until all sides are nicely browned. To prevent from oil splatter, you can use a splatter screen.
- When the meat is nicely browned, transfer it to paper towel and wipe off excess fat.
- Slice the ginger and cut green part of Tokyo Negi into 2 inche pieces.
- With the white part of Tokyo Negi, make Shiraga Negi for garnish (See How To Make Shiraga Negi).
- In a large pot, put the browned pork belly, green part of Tokyo Negi, half of sliced ginger (save some for later), and pour water to cover the meat.
- Bring it to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours, turning occasionally (if you want really tender meat, cook for at least 3 hours). When the liquid is running low, keep adding water (or hot water) to cover the meat.
- Meanwhile make 3 hard boiled eggs (Check How To Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs).
- After cooking for 2 hours, take out the meat and wipe off excess oil with paper towel.
- In another large pot (I use a cast iron pot), put the pork belly, dashi stock, sake, and mirin. Start cooking on medium high heat.
- Add sugar, soy sauce, the rest of ginger slices, and the red chili pepper (I remove the seeds for my kids.).
- When boiling, lower the heat but keep simmering. Place Otoshibuta on top (If you don't have an Otoshibuta, make one! See How To Make Otoshibuta). We’ll be cooking for 1 hour.
- After cooking for 30 minutes, add the hard boiled eggs. Remove otoshibuta and continue simmering.
- Simmer for another 30 minutes. Once in a while pour the sauce on top of the meat and rotate the meat and eggs. Make sure you have enough liquid so they won’t get burnt. When the sauce gets reduced and the meat has nice glaze, it’s ready to serve. Serve the pork belly and eggs with Shiraga Negi on top.
- If you prefer this dish to be less oily and have more flavor, wait for another day. Cool down the pot completely and store it in the refrigerator overnight. Next day take out the pot from the refrigerator and remove the solidified fat before heating up. Heat thoroughly and serve the pork belly and eggs with Shiraga Negi on top.
* Not supported by any scientific research.