Buta no Kakuni, a classic Japanese stew requires a fatty cut — usually belly pork — coaxed to tenderness in a gentle braising concoction of soy, sake or mirin with scallions. In this version, pork is cooked with carrot and daikon to amplify its porcine flavours with sweetness of root vegetables. It’s wonderfully satisfying especially on cool, rainy days. Best of all, it’s one-pot cooking with minimum fuss in the kitchen.
By John Bo
Total time: 1.5 hours to prepare and cook, re-boil overnight
Serve: 6 persons
A: Pork & Vegetables
600g pork belly, skin on, cut into large cubes
1 large stalk leek, sliced diagonally, 1.3cm thick
2 large carrots, about 200g, cut into thick discs
1 Japanese daikon, about 200g, cut into thick discs*
300ml crisp Japanese sake or mirin
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
C: Cornstarch Solution, optional
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 teaspoon lukewarm water
1 spring onion, coarsely chopped
Ground pepper to taste
1. Heat up flat saucepan on medium heat, panfry pork until browned.
2. Transfer pork to a stewing pot.
3. Lightly fry leek in the same saucepan.
4. Meanwhile, bring 1 litre of water to a rolling boil in a separate saucepan. Add in daikon to parboil for 10-15 minutes and then drain it.
5. Add carrot into the stewing pot, followed by daikon. Give it a good stir.
6. Add sake or mirin, light soy sauce and salt. Top up liquid if needed to submerge ingredients to ensure they cook evenly. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour.
7. For a thick gravy, stir in corn starch solution into the stew. Allow it to come to a slow boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
8. Garnish before serving. Enjoy stew on its own or serve with steamed rice. A cold sake would make a great accompaniment.
BUYING TIP: Japanese daikon which has a sweet and crisp texture is ideal for this dish. It is less peppery as compared with the local cultivar commonly known as white radish/white turnip which is a good substitute if daikon is not available.
*TECHNIQUE: Frying root vegetables expels moisture allowing vegetables to better absorb flavours of the meat while it stews. To eliminate bitter after-taste of daikon or white radish, parboil for 15-20 minutes, then add it to the stew to continue to cook.
Photos: John Bo