Buta Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork)
(Adapted from http://www.norecipes.com/2008/05/18/buta-kakuni-japanese-braised-porkbelly/)

small handful of dried sardines (about 2 tablespoons)
5 1/4″ thick rounds of ginger
2 cloves of garlic crushed with a heavy object
1 C water
1/4 C mirin
1 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs sake
2 tsp soy sauce
3/4 tsp kosher salt

pork belly cut into 2″ strips

Choosing the right pork belly is important. The meat part should be well marbled, and there should be even layers of fat between the layers of meet (you don’t want thicker meat layers or thicker fat layers).

Wrap the dried baby sardines in a cheese cloth and tie with some kitchen twine to make a “bouquet garni” of fish (if you can find them you can also use a fillable disposable tea bag). You can leave them loose, but it’s a lot easier to fish them out of the stock if you do this.

Pick a small dutch oven (or other heavy bottom pan with a tight fitting lid) that will snugly fit the pork in a single layer. Combine all ingredients except the pork belly in the pot, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes to release stock from fish.

Remove the bouquet garni and throw it out. Add the pork belly (make sure there is enough broth to cover the meat), cover and cook over low heat for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat falls apart and the fat is silky smooth.

Ideally you’ll want the pork to sit in the broth overnight putting it in the fridge after it cools off. This will do 2 things: it gives the meat a chance to absorb more flavor and it will give you a chance to easily skim off the rendered fat.

Gently reheat, slice and serve with some of the braising liquid and some steamed bok choy.

Other Websites:
Steaming Technique with Daikon
http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2007/02/the_buta_kakuni.html
Just Hungry
http://www.justhungry.com/buta-no-kakuni-japanese-braised-pork-belly

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