If you’ve been checking out our articles for a while now, then you know that braising is a comparatively new technique for me. I first tried it out back in April and I’m not as confident in my braising skills as I’d like to be. Not that braising is hard, it’s not. But it’s time-consuming, which means I need to motivate myself for the task. Sure, the taste from that first bite of wine-braised beef made me see the face of God back in April, but it still took over 2 hours to make.
Which means you actually have to remember to cook dinner before your belly starts rumbling.
…that might be a tad bit of a problem for me.
So I’ve only tried my hand at braised meat maybe 2-3 times after that first religious experience. Mostly, I just tell myself that I’ll get to it in 5 minutes – and spend those 2 hours in which the beef was supposed to be braising watching YouTube videos.
And then I’m hungry and in no state to wait for the meat to braise again.
Well, apparently the universe has had enough of me because it recommended a video. The video that actually made me tear my bottom from the chair and actually go to the kitchen and cook without going crazy from hunger first.
(Just keep a schedule and eat on time, peeps. Do as I say, not as I do).
What is Kakuni?
Kakuni is braised pork. A Japanese-style sweet braised pork, to be exact. Which is very exciting for me because 1) I love braised meat (she repeats for the hundredth time); 2) I love pork – in fact, as a true adept of Georgian Mtsvadi, I prefer pork to beef; 3) I love Japanese cuisine.
And this recipe just unites the three things I love into one.
Now, in a true Japanese cuisine way – not everything that seems Keto is Keto.
Standard ingredients include soy sauce (Keto). Sake (Keto), mirin (…can be Keto-friendly if used in very small amounts, but too high in carbs to be perfectly safe), and sugar (absolutely, in no way Keto).
The pork is traditionally cooked in dashi broth, but the recipe in the video used water. Since I didn’t have ingredients to cook the dashi broth on hand, I decided to go with it. It worked perfectly well.
The recipe also used ginger, which, again, is apparently not a necessity when it comes to Kakuni, but I definitely wouldn’t advise you to skip it.
What to Use Instead of non-Keto Ingredients?
The easiest way to substitute mirin is apparently 1 tbsp water + 1 tbsp sugar.
Since this recipe already calls for sweetener, I decided to simply skip the mirin altogether.
While substituting sugar, I went with allulose, since it’s the closest to it in taste – but I suspect erythritol will work just as well.
I also added less then what the recipe called for – 1.5 tbsp of sweetener instead of 4 tbsp of sugar per 1 lb of pork. It worked perfectly fine in my opinion.
Sake is Keto-friendly, but it’s not a very common cooking ingredient in non-Asian households. If you can’t get your hands on Sake (or it’s simply too expensive to waste on cooking), you can substitute it with dry white wine like vermouth or sherry.
The biggest trick with Kakuni is that you leave it to marinate overnight. That lets the pork absorb the sauce and flavors.
So yes, Kakuni requires commitment. It’s a straightforward recipe that’s not hard to follow – but there’s definitely time investment needed here.
My advice? Definitely try your hand at it – just cook a large batch. Kakuni keeps in the fridge for up to a week (and more if you freeze it) and makes a perfectly nice lunch or dinner, even without the sides.
- A large non-stick pan/skillet
- A large pot
- A stove
- 2 lb pork belly (shoulder or back ribs can also be used)
- 5 tbsp of sake (can be substituted for dry vermouth or sherry)
- 5 tbsp of soy sauce (or more for stronger flavor)
- 3 tbsp of allulose (or erythritol)
- 2 inch piece of ginger, sliced
- Salt and black pepper (to taste)
- Olive oil (for browning)
- Cut your pork in 2-inch chunks. Salt and pepper them.
- Heat your oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is fully heated, add your pork chunks. Cook until brown all on sides (but not cooked through).
- Transfer the pork chunks to a large pot. Cover with water. Add sake and pieces of ginger.
- Simmer the pork for at least 2 hours (but 3 is better).
- Add soy sauce and allulose to the pot and stir. Simmer for a few more minutes (allulose should fully dissolve). Turn the heat off and leave the pork marinating overnight.
- Transfer the pork to an airtight container and pop it into the fridge the next morning. Reheat on low heat before serving.