Pork and Vegetable Stew 豚と野菜の煮込み

japanese cake

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).

We like this very comforting dish. The original “buta jiru” is also equally good but this one is a bit more refined and the pork melts in the mouth. But, my wife said that this dish cries out for potatoes. Next day, I added cubed potatoes, more parboiled pork, and additional Kelp broth to the leftover soup (before adding miso) and cooked another 30 minutes or so and finished with miso. It tasted much better with a nice texture and added sweetness from the potatoes. Now I said, I should have added onions! I think we are converting this dish to the more classic “buta juru”!

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