Previously, on tastingmenu.wordpress.com –
Over the last several weeks, I started getting a little stir crazy since I hadn’t been able to get a chance to try and make some new dishes. Work pretty much had my attention – trying to get another product out the door.
…and then I ran across the following:
Recalling how I recently made Iron Chef Morimoto’s scallop congee that accompanied his 10 hour kakuni, I thought this 3-4 hour version would be wonderful alternative. So I had to start by taking some time to translate the ingredients list translated to non-metric values. So the USA Today recipe listing ended up being:
1/2 slab pork belly (4 servings) – a half slab@Whole Foods turned out to be 7 lbs!
8 3/4 cups water
5.9 (6) cups sake
29.983 (30) ounce sugar
1.875 cups soy sauce
4.058 teaspoon dark soy sauce
5 3/4 Tablespoon scallion oil
0.529 ounce scallions cut into 2-inch sticks
0.353 ounce ginger, skin on, sliced thinly
1.058 ounce takatnosume (dried chili)
3 pieces (dry) Bay leaf
So a microbatch version turned out to be:
1/8 slab pork belly (2 servings) – ~1.5 lbs!
4 cups +6 T water
3 cups sake
15 ounce sugar (it measured out to 426g by weight – just about 1/2 of the original recipe; this came out to 1 2/3 c of sugar – really?!?)
1/2 cup + 7 T soy sauce
2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
5 3/4 Tablespoon scallion oil
1/4 ounce scallions cut into 2-inch sticks (about 2 scallions)
0.353/2 ounce (~1 g) ginger, skin on, sliced thinly
1 T ounce takatnosume (dried chili)
1 1/2 pieces (dry) Bay leaf
The video of the preparation process can be found here:
In the video, Iron Chef Morimoto begins the process by searing the pork belly using scallion oil. He doesn’t so much as steam his pork belly as he ‘blanches’ it with some of the scallion and ginger (sounds like the beginning of making chinese chicken stock) for an hour. At the end of that time, the pork belly is removed and cut into 40g squares (looks like 1″ thick slices from the video). To the blanching pot, he adds the rest of his seasonings to create a braising liquid for the pork belly. The portioned pork belly is carefully stacked into an oven safe cooking pot which is then filled with the braising liquid to cook (submerged) in the oven for 4 hrs (he says 2-3 hours in the video) at 350 degrees F.
To begin the process, I really wanted to know what 15 oz of sugar looked like.
It turned out that 15oz was actually 426g which was pretty much 1/2 of the amount of sugar in the original recipe. When I transferred the sugar to measuring cups – it turned out to be 1 2/3 cups.
So I began by building the braising liquid with water and sugar.
To the sugar and water, I added the soy sauce and the tamari (since I didn’t have dark soy sauce).
I needed to add a microbatch amount of ginger which was a bit more than 1g.
As per Iron Chef Morimoto’s instruction, I had to also build a blanching/poaching liquid; and as near as I could tell from the video, I guesstimated that I was looking at 3 scallion stalks (cut into 2″ lengths) and 4 slices of ginger. Hmm. That sounded like someone getting ready to make chinese chicken stock.
At this point, I was ready to actually start cooking and so I put 2 tablespoons of Morimoto’s scallion oil into a really hot pre-heated pan. To that hot pan, I added the pork belly, fat side down. Once the fat side had gotten a good sear color, I seared all the rest of the sides of the pork belly.
While the pork belly was searing, the 3 cups of sake was added to the braising liquid which I then brought to a boil. At the boil, I added the scallion and ginger from the recipe ingredient list.
Once the braising liquid came back to the boil, I added the gochugagu and the bay leaf and a half.
At the end of the hour of simmering/poaching the pork belly at just under 50% max heat, I transferred it to the cutting board.
The size of the meat seemed a bit wide, so I made the decision to split it along the long axis. When I reviewed Iron Chef Morimoto cutting the meat into 40g pieces, I guesstimated the width of the pieces was about 1″ wide, so that’s what I chose to do.
With the braise nice and warm and ready to go, I loaded in the pork belly, covered my pot and got it into a preheated 350 degree oven and let it cook for 3 hours. While the pork belly was slowly cooking away, my wife volunteered to make garlic sauteed cabbage as a bed for the pork belly to be served. And like the video, we put down a base of cooked cabbage and then the slices of pork belly on top.
Both my wife and I looked forward to tasting this offering from Iron Chef Morimoto. My wife commented that she liked the idea of putting the pork belly to braise in the oven instead of having to worry about using a slow cooker all day (she disliked the idea of cooking a dish for 10 hours). As mentioned ealier, we served the portions of the pork belly over cabbage with a side of white rice. It was a delicious dish and the pork was wonderfully tender. My wife did comment that it reminded her of the Tainan version of a similar dish – a tad too sweet for her palate (as compared to the Taipei variant). It’s interesting to note that Iron Chef Morimoto’s 10 hour Pork Kakuni (Morimoto: The New Art Of Japanese Cooking, p. 146) specifies 4 T soy sauce and 2 T sugar (about 2:1 ratio). In this recipe, there is ~16 T soy sauce and ~34 T sugar (about 1:2 ratio). I would have to wonder what would happen if I changed the soy/sugar ratio in this recipe to match the ratio from the 10 hour kakuni recipe. I look forward to do this recipe again as the weather turns much cooler. Iron Chef Morimoto, thank you for sharing this very accessible recipe. ありがとうございます!