Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Japanese Braised Pork (Buta no Kanuki)

One of my favourite foods is belly pork. And one of my favourite ways of eating it is the Japanese dish of braised, slow-cooked pork served on rice with whole grain mustard (that most traditional of Japanese ingredients). If I get it right, the pork will be very tender; soft enough to pull apart with chopsticks, sweet, and spicy with an unctuous gravy that is very moreish. The sake bar and restaurant Kura in Auckland do a good version of it, and I always leave wanting more. Because their portions are so small. (Actually, that's not fair, their portions are fine.)

If I get it wrong, I'm not telling.

I am, however, deviating from the conventional, and purists, devoted to the art of Buta will be appalled. However, because of my European ancestry, I can't go past a piece of belly pork without insisting on some crackling, so here's what I'm doing:

Marinating the cubed, boned belly (still with skin on) in soy, dry sherry, ginger, crushed star anise and cracked pepper. For a day at least.
only 2 days to go...

after a day in the marinade, the meat has gone quite dark.

Dry the pork cubes, reserve the marinade, and then fry the pork in a big pan until browned on all sides. 

Meanwhile, dissolve about 2 tablespoons of sugar in a cup of water and add to the marinade, and return the pork to it once browned. Return this to the fridge, and once cooled, skim off any fat, and place the cubes of pork in a roasting dish, skin side up. 


Add the marinade, and top up with water until the pork is covered except for the skin. 

Slow cook in the oven at 140deg C for several hours; the liquid will need topping up with water from time to time, and the pork should become sticky and soft enough to carve with a chopstick. When it's cooked,turn on the grill in the oven and crisp up the skin. (I hope!)


UPDATE: the skin was so full of moisture from the marinade that it just didn't want to go crispy! Instead, it had become soft and silky and not a bit chewy, so I didn't risk any more cooking (after 3.5 hours), and here's how it looked:


Decant the gravy, separate the stock from the fat, and reduce the stock in a pan until it's glossy and thick enough to coat the back of the moon.

Serve with steamed shredded cabbage silverbeet, grainy mustard, and steamed rice. With the gravy. Don't forget the gravy. Apparently hard-boiled eggs are a traditional accompaniment but this is just lunch!



3 days to prepare, 30 min to eat!

But it was really worth it; absolutely sensational! I will be doing this again.


  1. MMMMmmmmmmmm it was the best pork belly I've ever tasted - thank you husband xxx

  2. that does sound nice, and you cook pork belly completely different from me (as in cooking process). I score the skin, put it in the oven but raised on a grate skin side down initially that way all the fat is kept away from the pork. Then I turn it over to let the skin really crisp up. Then I separate the skin from the pork and leave the skin in the oven to crisp up some more. Does the fact it is cubed make it cook quicker?

  3. Hi Joanna! That's what I usually do with my pork belly, too, only on a bed of onions to raise the pork off the dish. I cover the onions with water and apple juice and it makes a lovely gravy! I love your blog, by the way, and miss you guys, so it's a great way to keep up. Love to you all! Lx

  4. Gosh that looks lovely! I so wish I could eat belly pork but it's too fatty for me and it make me ill! I would run the risk to try that though.

  5. me? normally wouldn't touch pork with laura's barge pole for lloyd's chilli's but them things sure do look good....

  6. Leigh! how lovely to hear from you through the medium of the blogosphere! I cooked enough of it for 8, and 5 of us finished it within minutes! Lx

  7. thinking we will try this in the weekend... care to share the recipe??

  8. Hi Bella!

    Here goes: this is from memory as I haven't followed an exact recipe myself; I gathered it from a selection online!

    2kg pork belly with the skin on, but boneless. Cut into cubes of about 2cm. Marinate in Soy (light and dark) oyster sauce, sherry (or sake) and a combination of spices including star anise, szechwan pepper, allspice and loads of ginger. I would use pieces of fresh ginger if I do this again, rather than grated ginger, and the slow-cooked marinated chunks taste brilliant in the finished dish. Marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

    Pat dry the pork and fry to brown the surfaces and caramelise the skin. Return to the marinade and add some sugar and water. Return to the fridge and cool, then skim off any fat at this stage. Then lay the pork in an oven dish, skin upwards and cover with marinade leaving the skin exposed and cook at 140deg for hours! (Probably 4 at least). If it starts to dry out, add a little water. You'll know when the pork is cooked as you'll be able to cut the skin with a fork. It really need to be that tender.

    Serve with rice, grainy mustard and some steamed greens. And let me know how you get on! Lx