Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly)

Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly)

Kakuni — “square-simmered” in Japanese — is a dish of pork belly cubes that are tender and savory after simmering slowly in a base of soy sauce, sugar and sake. The dish is eaten all over Japan, but its origins are in China. The dish most likely stemmed from dongpo pork: a Chinese braised pork belly dish believed to have been created in the Song dynasty. Because of a strong Chinese presence on Japan’s island of Kyushu, Japanese-Chinese style dishes emerged over time, becoming more distinctly local with each passing century. Now, kakuni remains popular in hubs like Nagasaki — but it’s cooked in homes and izakayas all over. By blending basic Japanese ingredients and allowing ample patience while cooking, a deeply flavorful and rich dish that embodies comfort results.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 2 persons



  1. Step 1

    Heat a frying pan over medium (you don’t need to oil the pan) and sear the pork pieces on all sides until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side. At the same time, bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
  2. Step 2

    Remove the pork from the frying pan and wipe off the excess fat with paper towels. Place the pork and ginger in the boiling water, cover with a Japanese drop lid (see Tip) or make your own by shaping a sheet of aluminum foil into a round slightly smaller than the diameter of your pot, cutting large holes all through the foil for ventilation and setting it over the pork. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Step 3

    Drain pork and rinse under running water. Discard ginger. Place pork in a bowl, cover with cold water and allow meat to cool for 5 minutes, changing the water twice.
  4. Step 4

    Lay the pork pieces in a single layer in the same pot (no need to wash), and add the sake and enough water so the liquids just cover the meat (about 4 cups). Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming the scum as needed, then reduce the heat to low. Cover with the drop lid or foil with holes. Simmer for 1 hour, replenishing with water if needed. If you want to serve this dish with soft-boiled eggs, start preparing them now and then peel them.
  5. Step 5

    After the pork has simmered for an hour, add the sugar to the pot. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then check meat for tenderness. A skewer should slide through easily. Continue simmering if needed.
  6. Step 6

    Add the soy sauce to the pot, along with the peeled soft-boiled eggs, if using. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, and allow the dish to cool.
  7. Step 7

    When ready to serve, pour 1/4 cup broth from the pot into a frying pan, and allow it to reduce for 5 minutes to create a sauce. To serve, place kakuni pork pieces and eggs, if serving, in dishes, and top with the sauce. Serve with karashi to taste, if using.