Pork and Vegetable Stew 豚と野菜の煮込み (Mark’s book Page 28)
This is from Mark’s cook book (P28). This dish definitely resembles a very popular homey dish called “buta jiru” 豚汁; a Japanese soup containing various root vegetables and pork seasoned with miso. I remember this was one of the most common dishes we made when we had a school cookout picnic on the floodplain 河原 of a nearby river when I was in grade school. This was called “suiji ensoku” 炊事遠足. The cookout was a traditional event and was meant to be educational as well as fun. A group of pupils had to plan what to cook and buy ingredients within a given budget. On the floodplain, we set up a fire and arranged large stones around it to make an outdoor cooking pit. We usually cooked a one-pot meal using a large cook pot. I do not remember whether we used a charcoal or wood fire. I just googled “suiji ensoku” (in Japanese) and learned that it appears to be peculiar to Hokkaido (the northernmost island of Japan). That makes sense since I grew up in Sapporo, Hokkaido. It also appears this wonderful tradition is still carried out in Hokkaido.
Again, I have to start by saying, I deviated from the orginal recipe, not intentionally but by necessity. I usually have “konnyaku” コンニャク in our refrigerator and I did not even check before starting this dish. It turned out that I did not have regular konnyaku but had “shirataki” 白滝 which is a konnyaku made into thin noodles (the most common use of this is in “sukiyaki” すき焼き). So, I had to substitute konnyaku with shirataki.
The specific cut of the pork, pork belly, required in the recipe (“bara-niku” or “sanmai-niku” バラ肉、三枚肉), which is a very common cut in Japan, is difficult to get here in a regular grocery store (bacon and salt pork are made from pork belly. I think that salt pork can be used for this dish after soaking it in water and parboiling it but I have not tried it yet). you could buy fresh (not smoked and/or salted) pork belly from speciality butcher stores or over the internet (sometimes from the producers directly) but I have not tried it. I found that meaty pork spareribs, after removing the bones, comes very close to this cut which I used here. Otherwise I followed the recipe in Mark’s book.
To briefly reiterate, cut pork (1/2 lb.), daikon (1 lb.), carrot (1 medium) in 1/2 inch cubes. Boil the pork cubes in water (starting from cold water) for 10-15 minutes skimming the scum which floats on the surface, then, rinse the pork in running water. Cook 1 pkg of shirataki in boiling water for 5 minutes and rinse in running water. Combine all the ingredients and cover them with “konbu” or kelp broth (about 1 qt or liter). Add 1 crushed garlic clove, 2tbs soy sauce and 1tbs sugar. Cook for several hours until all all ingredients are soft. Just before serving, dissolve yellow miso (2-3 tbs) for the desired saltiness. To dissolve the miso paste, I use a Japanese contraption called “misokoshi” 味噌濾し, but you can use a small strainer and a spoon. Garnish with chopped scallion and Japanese seven flavored hot pepper (Sichimi Tougarashi).