Sous-vide is a popular way to cook meat or fish especially among professional chefs. It is done by submersing vacuum plastic wrapped meat or fish into warm water and cooking it for several hours. Although many sous-vide devices are available for home cooks, they tend to be rather expensive. I certainly cannot justify buying the equipment. I came across this recipe for marinating pork belly in shio-koji 塩麴 and slow cooking it in a rice cooker. Usually the water used for sous-vide cooking is 50-60C but, the “keep-warm” setting on a rice cooker, is more like 80-90C. In any case, since I just bought pork belly and happened to have shio-koji and an electric rice cooker, I decided to test this recipe.
I cut two small blocks of pork belly (probably less than 1/2 lb), put them in a small Ziploc storage bag (It is thicker than a similar size “sandwich” bag). I added shio-koji (10% of the weight or just enough to thinly coat the surface of the meat) and massaged it to coat the meat completely. I then removed as much air as I could from the bag and sealed it (#1 below). I placed the bag in the inner pot of the rice cooker (#2 below) and poured hot water to the highest level (#3 below)
I kept the cooker on “warm” mode for 4 hours and then let it cool down to room temperature (another several hours). I removed any excess fat and shio-koji from the surface (#4 in the picture above).
I sliced it and served it with Japanese hot mustard and yuzu-koshou (The first picture). This is certainly an OK preparation. The pork, however, was missing that unctuous melt-in-your-mouth feel and subtle sweetness which this dish is all about. The meat was cooked, but it was somehow too “solid” and dry. If you’re going to flirt with eating this much fat it should be at its superlative best. For this reason, we much prefer the more tradtional “Kakuni”. At least, we learned that this poor-man’s sous-vide sort of works.