Kakuni is a Japanese braised pork dish meaning “square simmered”. By cooking the pork for a long time over a low temperature the collagen breaks down into gelatin which keeps the meat moist whilst becoming extremely tender. Pork fat is unsaturated and packed full of collagen which everyone knows is good for your skin and complexion. I don’t normally like fat on any meat, but in this dish, when eaten together with the pork meat, it is delicious.
The best part of this dish is that, like all stews and curries, the longer you leave it the tastier it gets! It takes a bit of a long time to make this dish, but the wait is worth it and your house will be filled with a mouth watering aroma that will have your family salivating! Even though I don’t mind the wait since I can get on with other things, I can’t wait till we get a pressure cooker so I can cook up this dish in under an hour 😉
6 pork ribs (boneless)
1 leek (only the green part)
1 thumb ginger
100ml soy sauce
Arrange the boneless pork ribs at the bottom of a sauce pan. Chop the head off the leek and slice the ginger thickly (no need to peel) and arrange on top of the pork. Add the water and bring to the boil, skimming off the scum as you go. Simmer gently uncovered for 2 hours.
After a couple of hours, poke the pork with a chopstick or fork – it should be able to slide into the meat effortlessly. If the meat still seems too firm, carry on simmering for another 20 mins. Remove the leek (we used it just for the flavour and to take some of the smell away from the pork), and take each piece of pork out to slice into half on a chopping board. At this stage I like to sieve the soup to remove any debris. Then return the pork pieces back to the soup and turn off the heat. Let stand for a couple of hours, or ideally overnight.
A white layer of lard will have formed on the top of your soup. Japanese people tend to stir this back into the dish for added flavour, but I prefer to throw it away to create a healthy dish with not much sacrifice on richness. Bring back to a gentle simmer and add half of the soy sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the other half of the soy sauce and all the sugar and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
Here the dish is complete, but we often like to add an onsen tamago (slow cooked egg traditionally made in the Japanese hot springs). I will show you how to make these soon, so in the mean time, you can just add a poached egg on top. I have included a photo with regular boiled eggs as well which are another option.