Buta no Kakuni is a typical Japanese home-cooked dish made with tender pork belly slow-cooked in a rich soy-based broth, served with soft-boiled eggs and spring onion. This recipe is packed with flavor and guaranteed to melt in your mouth!
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What is Buta no Kakuni?
Buta no Kakuni (豚の角煮) is a classic Japanese dish that showcases the rich flavors of pork belly, slow-cooked to perfection in a sweet and savory sauce.
The name itself is a direct reflection of its preparation: "buta" means pig, "kaku" signifies a square or cube shape, and "ni" denotes simmering. This dish is believed to have been inspired by the Chinese "Dongpo pork."
Interestingly, while many associate Buta no Kakuni with the southern regions of Japan, specifically Kyushu and Okinawa, variations of this dish can be found throughout the country.
Despite these regional variations, Buta no Kakuni is a beloved dish in households throughout Japan. It's often accompanied by soft-boiled eggs, shiraganegi (thinly shredded white part of spring onions), and Japanese mustard. To add a pop of color and balance the richness, it's often paired with blanched spinach or other greens.
And for a complete meal, serving it over rice is a must. Some even transform it into a donburi (rice bowl dish) or use the tender pork in steamed buns.
How I Developed This Recipe
Ingredients and Substitution Ideas
- Pork Belly Block: Opt for a block-shaped cut for the best results.
- Odor-Reducing Ingredients: Green onions and ginger are used to neutralize the pork's aroma. If green onions aren't available, regular onions are a suitable alternative.
- Lager Beer: Any brand of lager beer is suitable for this recipe. For a more elegant touch, use an equal amount of white wine and for a more Japanese flavor, swap it for sake. Using alcohol contributes to the melt-in-mouth texture and I don't recommend omitting it.
- Honey: A key ingredient in my buta no kakuni, honey imparts a unique sweetness and tenderizes the meat, giving it a glossy finish.
- Sugar: I typically use light brown cane sugar, but regular sugar will suffice.
- Soy Sauce: Kikkoman soy sauce is a reliable and reasonably priced option. Refer to my complete soy sauce guide for a comprehensive guide on selecting soy sauce in Japanese cuisine.
- Soft-boiled Eggs: Although optional, I believe they're an essential accompaniment to the dish.
- Green Onion: This is prepared as shiraganegi. For detailed preparation instructions, see my article on negi.
- Japanese Mustard (Karashi): Another optional ingredient, but I think the dish feels incomplete without it. Hot English mustard is a close match if you're seeking a more accessible alternative.
I have listed my recommended Japanese condiments, tools, and ingredients in the Sudachi Recipes Amazon shop. If you want to keep making various Japanese foods at home, please check it out!
Here are my step-by-step instructions for how to make melt-in-mouth homemade buta no kakuni from scratch. For ingredient quantities and simplified instructions, scroll down for the printable recipe card below.
Start heating a large pot of water with enough water to submerge the pork. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat to simmer.
While you wait for the water, heat a frying pan on medium/medium-high and sear all sides of the pork belly.
Once sealed, transfer the pork block to a chopping board and leave it to cool for a few minutes. Once cool enough to touch, cut it into chunks.
Add it to the pot of water and simmer for 10 minutes.
The purpose here is to remove the excess fat so that we can make the meat extra tender. Pork belly has a lot of fat, but the best part of kakuni is to enjoy the melted fat. By pre-boiling the meat, you can remove the excess fat and only enjoy the tasty parts.
Place a sieve or colander in the sink and pour in the contents of the pot to drain the water. Rinse the pork with fresh water to clean it.
Rinse out the pot and fill it with fresh water (enough to cover the pork) and bring it back to a boil. While you wait, cut a green onion into thirds and slice some fresh ginger. (Save some of the white part of the green onion for later.)
Once the water starts to boil, add the pork, green onion and ginger, and lower the heat to simmer. Simmer for 1 hour and top up the water if necessary to ensure the pork is always submerged. After one hour, turn off the heat.
One of the reasons why the meat might become tough is because the surface of the pork dries out during the simmering process. Exposing any part of the pork to the air can cause it to harden or dry out. Make sure it's always submerged in the liquid and add more water if necessary.
Measure out the appropriate amount of cooking liquid from the pot. This is a light pork stock that is used to add depth to the marinade.
Pour it into a large saucepan and add larger beer, honey, light brown sugar and soy sauce. Mix well and bring to a boil.
Lower to simmer and add the pork.
Ensure the pork is submerged in the broth by using a drop lid to weigh it down. Simmer for 30 minutes.
A drop lid (otoshibuta) is a Japanese cooking tool used for simmering. They promote even cooking, flavoring and reduce the amount of evaporation. You can find drop lids made from wood, stainless steal or silicone. Alternatively, you can make your own drop lid using baking parchment or foil. You can learn more about how to make and use drop lids on my article, "How to make Otoshibuta".
Turn off the heat and leave it to cool. Once cool enough to touch, you can add some boiled eggs to make marinated eggs. Marinate in the pot for 1 hour. If you plan to marinate longer, transfer it to the fridge.
Allowing the pork to cool in the broth will help the meat absorb maximum flavour. It's also a great opportunity to make flavoured eggs, so why not?
Return the pot to the stove and heat on medium for about 15 minutes or until warmed through. Remove the eggs after 5-10 minutes to stop them from over cooking.
While you wait, thinly slice the white part of the green onion and soak in a bowl of lightly salted water. This style of green onion garnish is called "shiraganegi" which means "white hair onions".
Serve buta no kakuni with marinated eggs and blanched greens, shreds of green onion and a blob of Japanese mustard either as a side dish or over rice.
Repurpose Leftover Kakuni Broth
The braising liquid from kakuni is a flavorful concoction, rich with the essence of the pork and the depth of soy sauce. Discarding it would indeed be wasteful. Here are some creative ways to repurpose this umami-packed liquid:
- Noodle Soups: Transform it into a base for ramen or udon by adjusting it with soy sauce, salt, pepper, or chicken stock powder. If you have any remaining kakuni, they make an excellent topping, too.
- Japanese Curry's Secret Ingredient: Elevate your Japanese-style curry with this flavorful broth. Gradually add to taste and witness the depth it brings to your curry.
- Fried Rice: Use the residual lard as your cooking oil and a dash of the marinade for seasoning to make a fantastic chahan!
- Marinated Eggs: Create ajitama eggs by reducing the marinade a little, then immerse soft-boiled eggs in it for a delightful flavor infusion.
Storing Buta no Kakuni properly ensures that you can enjoy this delicious dish even on later days. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
- Let the kakuni cool down completely.
- Transfer it into a container, ensuring the braising liquid covers the pork.
- Seal the container tightly to prevent air exposure and refrigerate.
- Let the kakuni cool down completely, then place it in a zippered freezer bag.
- Pour in the braising liquid.
- Expel as much air as possible from the bag before sealing and freeze.
I hope you enjoy this melt-in-mouth buta no kakuni recipe! If you try it out, I'd really appreciate it if you could spare a moment to let me know what you thought by giving a review and star rating in the comments below. It's also helpful to share any adjustments you made to the recipe with our other readers. Thank you!
More Recipes You'll Love
If you loved this buta no kakuni recipe, check out some of my other delicious marinated creations!
- Pork Chashu for Ramen
- Chashu Donburi (Braised Pork Rice Bowl)
- Chicken Chashu (Braised Chicken Thigh)
- Ajitama (Marinated Eggs/Ramen Eggs)
Buta no Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly)
- 600 g pork belly - block
- 30 g fresh ginger
- 100 g green onion(s)
- Start heating a large pot of water (enough to submerge the pork). When it reaches boiling, turn it down to a simmer.
- Heat a frying pan on medium/medium-high and sear 600 g pork belly on all sides.
- Once seared, transfer the pork to a chopping board and let it cool for a few minutes. When it's cool enough to touch, cut it into chunks.
- Place the chunks in the pot of water and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes have passed, pour the pork into a colander and wash it with cold water. Rinse out the pot, fill it with enough water to cover the pork, and bring to boil once more.
- Cut 30 g fresh ginger into slices and break 100 g green onion(s) into thirds. Once the water starts to boil, add them to the pot along with the pork, and lower the heat. Simmer for one hour.
- Make sure the pork is always submerged and top up the water if necessary.
- After one hour, turn off the heat and measure out 500 ml cooking water from pork.
- Pour it into a large saucepan and add 100 ml lager beer, 1 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp light brown sugar and 100 ml soy sauce. Mix and bring to boil.
- Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and add the pork.
- Place a drop lid on top of the pork and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, add 4 soft-boiled egg(s) (optional) and marinate in the pot for 1 hour. (You can store it in the fridge if you plan to marinate longer.)
- Return the pot to the stove and heat on medium for about 15 minutes or until warmed through. Remove the eggs after 5-10 minutes to prevent overcooking.
- If you want to garnish with "shiraganegi", cut the white part of a green onion(s) into thin strips and soak in lightly salted water until serving.
- Dish up and serve with Japanese mustard .