Slow cooked pork belly in soy sauce glaze, Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly) is literally melt-in-your-mouth delicious. So good with rice and egg on the side.
Kakuni (角煮) is a 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. The slow cooking method 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 a simpler version of kakuni until one day my husband asked if the meat can be softer after I made it. I kept experimenting with different methods and changing the ingredients’ portions, and I think I finally got the kakuni that will melt in your mouth.
Tips to Make Delicious Kakuni
The key to a good kakuni recipe is the initial simmering. For this recipe, I spent 2-3 hours 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), the result is really worth it. If you plan to cook this for your family, I would recommend you to make a 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.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Braised Pork Belly (Kakuni)
- 1 lb pork belly
- 1 knob ginger (2 inches, 5 cm)
- 1 Tokyo negi (naga negi; long green onion) (or several green onions/scallions)
- 3 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
For Optional Toppings
- shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) (to taste)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Pound the pork on both sides with a meat pounder (or the back of the knife).
- Then mold the meat back into the original shape with your hands, and then cut into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces.
- Heat oil on the heavy skillet over medium-high heat and place the side with fat down. Cook the meat until all sides are nicely browned. To prevent oil splatter, you can use a splatter screen.
- When the meat is nicely browned, transfer it to a paper towel and wipe off excess fat.
- Slice the ginger and cut the green part of Tokyo Negi into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces. Save two slices for later.
- With the white part of Tokyo Negi, make shiraga negi for garnish (See How To Make Shiraga Negi).
- In a large pot, put the seared pork belly, green part of the negi, half of the sliced ginger (save the half for later), and pour water to cover the meat.
- Bring it to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered (so unwanted smell goes away) 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 (How To Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs).
- After cooking for 2 hours, drain the water and take out the meat, and wipe off excess oil with a paper towel.
- In a large heavy bottom pot (I use a Dutch oven), add the pork belly, dashi, sake, and mirin. Start cooking on medium-high heat.
- Add sugar, soy sauce, the rest of the ginger slices, and the red chili pepper (I remove the seeds so it won't be too spicy for my kids).
- When boiling, lower the heat but keep simmering. Place otoshibuta (drop lid) on top (If you don't have an otoshibuta, make one! See How To Make Otoshibuta) and do not need to put a regular lid. We’ll be cooking for 1 hour on simmer/low heat.
- After cooking for 30 minutes (halfway at this point), add the hard-boiled eggs. Remove otoshibuta.
- Continue simmering for another 30 minutes. Occasionally 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 a nice glaze, it’s ready to serve.
- Serve the pork belly and eggs and garnish with shiraga negi on top.
- If you prefer this dish to be less oily and have more flavor, wait for another day. Let cool completely and store it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day take out the pot from the refrigerator and remove the solidified fat before heating up. Heat thoroughly and serve.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days and in the freezer for a month.