Braised Pork Belly (Buta no Kakuni)
Happy thanksgiving! I will be roasting a nice big turkey for the first time in my life (which I am really excited about), but anyone who's looking for a special dish that's a little different this year, try this braised pork belly traditionally known as buta no kakuni (豚の角煮).
Who doesn't love pork belly? It's taken the US by a storm in the last 10 years and it's a staple of Asian cuisines. With some patience, they become so tender and melt in your mouth with so much pork flavor. Even though I hate saying goodbye to summer produce, winter definitely has its perks with mouth watering braises.
The key to pork belly is cooking it twice and for a long time. We are talking hours here so this is not a good weeknight meal. But it's so worth it on the weekend because it requires very little work for so much flavor. One of the issues people face with pork belly is that it's too fatty and heavy. If you're eating pork belly, you have to accept the fact that you will be eating pork fat but it doesn't have to feel heavy.
Prep your pork belly by removing any bones (reserve and use in the second braise if there are any bones) and cutting into 2 inch pieces. Leave the skin on for now, it's much easier to remove after the pork is pre-cooked. Alternatively, if you can fit the belly in one piece you could preboil whole and cut into 2 inch pieces later. Place all the pork belly in a medium pot along with sliced ginger (no need to remove the skin as it won't be in the final dish) and cut scallions. Cover the pork with water, bring the pot to boil and simmer for an hour.
While the pork is simmering, prep your vegetables. Peel all the root vegetables and cut into large bite size pieces. Once the pork belly has finished simmering, drain and rinse both the pot and the pork belly. At this point you should be able to pull off the skin from the meat with your fingers or you can slice it off easily with a knife because that fat has firmed up. Once all the skin has been removed, place the pork back into the pot and cover with the braising liquid (you can either premix the ingredients or dump the ingredients in and mix in the pot). Place the vegetables on top of the pork and bring the pot to boil. Reduce the heat to just barely simmer and close the lid. You can check back from time to time to make sure that the braising liquid hasn't evaporated away but for the most part you just need patience at this point. After another hour you are ready to eat! Garnish with scallions or grated daikon radish.
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