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Japanese Gastronomy: Kakuni (角煮) & Recipes!

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Kakuni (角煮) is a Japanese braised pork dish which literally means “square simmered”.

Kakuni is a meibutsu (名物/famous regional product) of Nagasaki Prefecture.
Actually this is not a strictly traditional Japanese dish as its most likely Chinese, similar to Dongpo’s pork, though not as heavy in sauce.

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Kakuni as served in some restaurants cut and cold

During the Ming Dynasty and Song Dynasty, the main Sino-Japanese trading route existed between Hangzhou and Kyūshū. Many Chinese lived in major Kyūshū port cities, such as Nagasaki and Japanese in Hangzhou. Therefore pork, was popularized in major Kyūshū cities.
These days kakuni is popular all over Japan with very many varieties depending on the region, climate and prevailing tastes.

KAKUNI-RAFTI

Okinawa, probably the region in Japan consuming the largest quantity of pork in Japan has its own recipe called “Rafti”!

PREPARATION:
Kakuni is made of thick cubes of pork belly simmered in dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sake. By cooking it for a long time over a low temperature the collagen breaks-down into gelatin keeping the meat moist while becoming extremely tender allowing it to be consumed with chopsticks easily. The dish is often served with scallions, daikon and karashi/Japanese hot mustard.

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DONG PO ROU

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For the record, as it is the origin of Kakuni, Dongpo’s pork is a famous Hangzhou dish which is made by pan-frying and then red cooking pork belly. The pork is cut to around 2 inches square in dimensions, consisting of half fat and half lean meat. The mouth feel is oily but not greasy, with the fragrance of wine.

ORIGINS:
Legend has it that while Su Dongpo was banished to Huangzhou, in a life of poverty, he made an improvement of the traditional process. He first braised the pork, added Chinese fermented wine and made red-braised pork, then slowly stewed it on a low heat. This dish was first launched in Huangzhou, then spread to Hangzhou, the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty, flourished, and then became one of Hangzhou’s most famous dishes.

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KAKUNI RECIPES

1) BASIC RECIPE

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Here the first of a series of 3 recipes for Kakuni, that is, a very basic one!

INGREDIENTS:

-Large raw pork belly lumps: 1 or 2 (depending on thickness and width)
-Fresh ginger: 1 or 2 pieces (5×5 cm)
-White leek: 1
-Rice vinegar: 50 ml
Soy sauce: 50 ml
-Sweet sake/mirin: 50 ml
-Honey: 1 tablespoon
-Water: 400~500 ml

RECIPE:

-Thinly slice the fresh ginger. Cut the leeks into small trunks. Punch holes in the pork with a fork to help “taste going inside”.

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-Fry pork on a frypan on all sides on a strong fire until all colour has completely changed and fat has changed colour.

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-In a large pot, drop/pour all ingredients, add pork, cover with lid and simmer over low medium fire for 60 minutes.
If meat does not cook as quickle as wanted, raise fire after 30 minutes.
Simmer until juices have reduced as low as on pic.

-Cut the pork into large size bites and simmer again for 5 minutes.

-Place on a serving meat cuts on a serving dish. Pour juices/sauce all over and add some chopped thin leeks.

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2) SIMPLE RECIPE

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Here the second of a series of 3 recipes for Kakuni, a bit more sophisticated than the first one, but still very easy!

INGREDIENTS: For 4 people

-Large raw pork belly lumps: 1 kg
-Fresh ginger: choose a root (or part of), about 5cm long and 2 cm thick/Sliced
-Brown sugar: 50 g
-Honey: 50 ml (liquid)
-Japanese sake: 60 ml
-Soy sauce: 120 ml
-Water: 600 ml
-Star anise: 1

RECIPE:

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-Steam pork in steamer on a low fire for 2 hours.

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-Cool down pork completely. This is important as this will help tenderize the meat!
Cut in bite size.
Put all the pork in deep pan. Add water, Japanese sake, sliced ginger, brown sugar and honey.

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-Add soy sauce and star anise. Simmer on a low fire for 30 minutes. Keep taking out the foam to remove harshness.

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-When ready serve with its juices/soup and strong mustard.

NOTE:
Do not add star anise at once as the taste might become overwhelming for some people.
Of course, this recipe is adapatble.
You may add chili pepper and other spices of your preferences, or even Chinese ingredients!
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3) PROFESSIONAL RECIPE

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This is the third of a series of 3 recipes for preparing Kakuni.
This particular recipe can be considered as the basic “professional” one, altough it is open to variations as far as spices and presentations are concerned!

INGREDIENTS;

-Large raw pork belly lumps: 1 kg
-Fresh ginger, finely chopped, 1~2 tablespoons
-Japanese sake: 2 cups
-Soy sauce: 2 cups
-Sugar: 2 large tablespoons
-Salt: 2 pinches

NOTE:
One can and ought (according to prefences) to add mirin/sweet sake, star anise, lemon zest, green parts of leeks and so on!

RECIPE:

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-Get everything prepared first!

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-Cut the pork into about 6cm wide slices.

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-Fry pork on both sides first. This will help the meat suck in the “juices”!

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-Fry until the colour above is reached.

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-Scoop out the excess fat, taking care not to run it over the meat.
The picture above shows how much fat can scooped out!
If you use a non-stick frypan, there is no need to add oil before frying the pork, meaning less fat to scoop out!

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-In a large and deep pan, drop in the meat. Add water just to cover meat. Switch on the fire. You can add water later litle by little to keep it above the meat.
Add ginger, leeks (green part), lemon zest (whole or minced) and star anise.
If you want to make it sweet, add a whole sliced onion!

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-Make sure that all ingredients are clean. Check that the lemons are not waxed (in that case clean it out!)!

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-Once brought to a boil, add soy sauce, Japanese sake, mirin/sweet sake and sugar.
Last, add salt (important!).

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-Lower fire to low and continue scooping out any scum.

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-When no more scum appears, cover with lid or a large piece of foil paper and simmer for a whole hour.
Check from time to time if there is enough soup in the pan. If the soup level goes under that of top of the meat, the taste will become too strong. Add water and Japanese sake until the soup reaches the meat level.

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-Above picture shows starting point of the simmering process.

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-Above picture shows the finished product inside the deep pan!
Check if the meat is well cooked. A pointed (Japanese-style) chopstick should easily go through the meat all the way.
But this does not mean you can eat it at once.
It is best to switch off the fire, let the cover on, and let it cool completely. Only then, the meat will be fully impregnated with the taste!
It will taste a lot better re-heated before serving it!

RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

Mummy I Can Cook! by Shu Han in London
Pierre.Cuisine, Francescannotwrite, My White Kitchen, 47 Japanese Farms Through The Eyes of Its Rural Communities, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento,Adventures in Bento Making, American Bent, Beanbento, Bento No, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box,
Susan at Arkonlite, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Bento Lunch Blog (German), Adventures In Bento, Anna The Red’s Bento Factory, Cooking Cute, Timeless Gourmet, Bento Bug, Ideal Meal, Bentosaurus, Mr. Foodie (London/UK), Ohayo Bento,

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

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Japanese Gastronomy: Taberu Rayu/Okinawa Chili Oil. Home-made Recipe!

Chili oil (also called hot chili oil or hot oil) is a condiment made from vegetable oil that has been infused with dried chili peppers and sometimes also additional ingredients. It is commonly used in Chinese cuisine, East and Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Particularly popular in Sichuan cuisine, it is used as an ingredient in cooked dishes as well as a condiment. It is sometimes used as a dipping sauce for meat and dim sum. It is also employed in the Korean Chinese noodle soup dish jjamppong.

The Japanese variety of Chinese chili oil is known as rāyu (ラー油 or 辣油), used in Japan as a cooking ingredient or as a condiment. The default kind is typically a clear, chili-infused sesame oil, and the chopped chili pepper used is typically red, imparting a reddish tint to the oil. Other ingredients used may include soy oil, corn oil, dried aloe, ginger, guava leaves, leek leaves, paprika, and turmeric.

Beginning in 2009, a new type of product originating from Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, known as taberu rāyu (食べるラー油 or 辣油, literally, “rāyu for eating”) became a trend in 2010. This variety is known for reduced spiciness, and in addition to the usual oil, chunks of food are included such as fried garlic and fried onion. However, the variety that includes food in the chili oil, as noted above, has existed in China since ancient times.

Here is a recipe to prepare it at home!

INGREDIENTS:

-Salad oil: 100 ml
Sesame oil: 50 ml
-Dried chili pepper: 1
-Fresh ginger: as appropriate (pieces)
-Fresh thin leek: 1 10-cm long piece
Dried shrimps: 10 g
-White sesame seeds: 10 g
-Korean chili powder (or chili powder): 15 g
-Gochujang: 20 g (See recipe for gochujang here)
-Soy sauce: 2 teaspoons
-Sugar: 1 teaspoon
-Fried garlic: 10 g
Fried onion: 10 g

RECIPE:

in a large bowl drop dried shrimps (chop them beforehand), chili powder, sesame oil (1 tablespoon out of the 50 ml needed) and white sesame seeds.
Mix well.

In a fry pan, pour the salad oil, the remaining sesame oil, and add the dried chili pepper, thin leek (cut) and ginger.
Fry over a light fire for 2 minutes to perfume the oil.

Take chili pepper, leek and ginger out before they get burned.
Heat the oil over a strong fire until its starts smoking.
Take off fire at once.

Add hot oil in two or three steps into the bowl containing mixed shrimps, chili powder, seasmes seeds and sesame oil.
The whole should hiss when you add the oil!

Add all the other remaining ingredients and mix well.

Once cooled down you can preserve it in a sealed jar for up to a month at room temperature.

Note: If you cannot find dried garlic or onion cut some in slices and dry-fry them!

RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES

Mummy I Can Cook! by Shu Han in London
Pierre.Cuisine, Francescannotwrite, My White Kitchen, 47 Japanese Farms Through The Eyes of Its Rural Communities, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento,Adventures in Bento Making, American Bent, Beanbento, Bento No, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box,
Susan at Arkonlite, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, The Herbed Kitchen, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Bento Lunch Blog (German), Adventures In Bento, Anna The Red’s Bento Factory, Cooking Cute, Timeless Gourmet, Bento Bug, Ideal Meal, Bentosaurus, Mr. Foodie (London/UK), Ohayo Bento,

Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery