Since the Japanese have high life expectancy, it follows that this braised pork belly recipe is health food, doesn’t it? Green vegetables are also involved and a hefty portion of the fat is melted away through slow cooking, so the corollary holds true so far.
Pork Belly Braised in Soy and Dashi
Served with Simmered Snow Peas and Pearl Onions
makes 4 servings
Snow peas and pearl onions.
For the Braised Pork Belly:
2 pounds skin-on pork belly, preferably including the ribs, cut into 4 square pieces
3 1/2 cups dashi
1 cup sake
2 tablespoons mirin
6 tablespoons dark or regular soy sauce
6 tablespoons sugar
6-inch knob of ginger, peeled and crushed
For the Simmered Vegetables:
a handful of pearl onions, peeled
a handful of snow peas, trimmed
1 1/4 cups dashi
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons light or regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons Japanese or Dijon mustard
- If using bone-in pork belly, have your butcher cut the pork belly into square serving pieces, unless you like wielding huge meat cleavers.
- Use instant dashi granules, also known as dashi-no-moto or hon-dashi, for convenience. It takes about 1 teaspoon of instant dashi for every 3 cups of water.
To Braise the Pork Belly:
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF / 177ºC. Pat the pork belly dry with paper towels and season lightly with kosher salt.
- In a large container, mix together the dashi, sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
- Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Brown the pork belly pieces, skin side down, until well-browned, about 15 minutes. Remove the pork belly pieces from the skillet.
- Add half of the dashi-soy mixture to the skillet. Stir and scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Return the pork belly pieces to the skillet, skin side up. Add the necessary amount of the leftover dashi-soy mixture to immerse about two-thirds of the pork belly. Add the peeled and crushed ginger.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Place the skillet in the 350ºF / 177ºC oven and braise while uncovered for about 2 hours.
- Allow the pork belly to cool in the braising liquid. Alternatively, you can also cool the pork belly to room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
How to give the impression that you know what you’re doing: use an old cast-iron skillet.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF / 205ºC.
- Using a small knife, remove the skin by lifting it gently from the layers of fat underneath. Score the fat with a cross-hatch pattern and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the pork is heated through and the fat is browned, about 20 minutes.
- While the pork belly is in the oven, simmer the vegetables.
Scored fat on the braised pork belly.
To Simmer the Vegetables:
- Mix together the dashi, mirin, and soy sauce for simmering the vegetables.
- Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Parboil the snow peas in the lightly salted water for about 2 to 3 minutes. Wash the snow peas with cold water to stop the cooking.
- Parboil the pearl onions in the lightly salted water until slightly translucent. Wash the pearl onions with cold water to stop the cooking.
- Discard the lightly salted water and replace with the dashi, mirin, and soy sauce mixture. Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer.
- Simmer the snow peas and pearl onions until heated through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Discard the simmering liquid.
Place the snow peas and pearl onions in a shallow bowl. Place the heated pork belly on top with a few tablespoons of the braising liquid. The braising liquid will be strongly flavored — a little goes a long way.
Serve with a dab of Japanese or Dijon mustard.