If you've ever visited an izakaya in Japan, chances are you've had this braised pork belly dish called buta no kakuni. Tender and fatty, the pork belly is simmered for a few hours in a broth of sake, mirin, soy sauce, and other ingredients until it falls apart and the fat is silky. It's a very simple dish that requires little preparation, and is a good introductory dish if you want to learn more about Japanese home-style cooking.Buta no Kakuni Recipe
2 tablespoons of dried sardines
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and sliced in thick rounds
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 piece of star anise
1 cup water
1/2 cup mirin
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 piece of pork belly with equal layers of meat and fat, about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide
In a small dutch oven (or an Asian earthenware bowl with lid) that will snugly fit the pork belly, add all the ingredients except the pork belly. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes to release the flavors from the fish.
Remove the fish and add the pork belly. It should be covered by the liquids. Add more if needed. Cover and simmer for 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart. Serve with soba noodles and steamed bok choy. This is usually accompanied with Karashi mustard as a condiment, but is optional.
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(Image: Kathryn Hill)