Sunday, September 30, 2007


Now, I'll probably jinx myself by saying this as I have in the past, but, I think Autumn is here! There is FINALLY a nip in the air and no dreadful humidity. Yee hah!

Anyway, it is said that the Okinawans eat every part of the pig except its squeal. Pork is a major part of their diet and I've heard that pig farmers in Hawaii were instrumental in bringing back Okinawa's pig population after WWII.

After re-connecting with my long lost Okinawan relatives a few years ago, I was interested to learn more about the Okinawan cuisine. It wasn't something that I grew up with, because my mom is of Japanese ancestry, so growing up we had mainland Japanese dishes.

One Okinawan dish that I really love is called rafute or what the Japanese call buta no kakuni (braised pork belly). Satoshi doesn't care for this dish much because it has this nice layer of fat on top, as well as some fat layered in between too. I love it because it has all this nice, melt in your mouth fat. Since he isn't home this weekend (he went to Thailand with his company, for their company trip, like those school field trips only with work members instead of classmates, and no spouses), I decided to make some for my dinner.

It was my first time making this dish and let me warn you, it is a bit time consuming--you definitely have to plan ahead. But, at least you don't have to stand next to the stove the whole time, as the book says, "just put the meat into the pot and let the heat do the cooking".

Here's the recipe translated from "Shiawase no Okinawa Ryori"

Shoyu flavored rafute -- Serves 4 (1 serving equals 2 slices)

600g pork belly (about 1.5 pounds)
3/4 cup awamori (Okinawan sake)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
4 cups katsuo (bonito) stock
nub of ginger, thinly sliced

1. Pour some hot water over the pork, then put into a pot with enough water to cover the pork. Simmer for 1 hour.
2. After the pork simmers, cut into 8 pieces, 2-3 centimeters thick by 6-7 centimeters wide.

NOTE: you can use the stock that is made from simmering the pork for other Okinawan dishes like soki soba (spare rib soup with noodles) or ju-shi (rice cooked with veggies and pork)--so save it. Unfortunately, I didn't read this part carefully and threw it out and am now kicking myself for doing so...argh!

3. In another pot, add the bonito stock, awamori and sugar, bring to a boil and add the meat.
4. Boil on high for the 5 minutes, then add half of the shoyu & mirin. Turn the heat to a simmer and add the rest of the shoyu & mirin.
5. Cook on simmer for 1 hour. When your chopsticks or fork can smoothly cut through the meat, the dish is done.
6. Add the thinly sliced ginger and turn off the heat.

This is the awamori I used. It is called Churatora (chura means beautiful in Okinawan and tora is tiger in Japanese). We bought this back in 2003 when the Tigers won the Central League Championships. I told Satoshi that he should wait until they take champions again to drink from it again... so, he's been waiting, but hasn't had much luck since the Tigers haven't been doing well. At times, he's even said that he thinks he should "taste it" just to be sure it isn't rotten....ha! (it smelled fine...don't tell him I used part of it for this dish....shh)

The pork was so tender (because of the awamori), if you don't have any, I think you could substitute with Japanese sake (wine made from rice), shochu (wine-like beverage which is stronger than sake, made from barley, rice or potato) or maybe even vodka...and the caramelized gravy poured onto my bowl of rice...heavenly!

One word of caution...the last 10 minutes or so is when the gravy will start to caramelize. Just check the pot off and on to make sure your pot doesn't go dry--wouldn't want you to ruin a pot for this dish.



bourgogne said...

hey the okinawans are a bit like the french in that they eat all pig parts. if the french could eat the squeal, they would!

OkiHwn said...

Lppks terriffic!

Anonymous said...

You're finally having autumn weather? Lucky you! ;-) It's interesting to learn about Okinawan cuisine. Thanks for sharing with us.


Anonymous said...

P.S. I'm catching up on posts that I missed and realized that you just celebrated your blog anniversary. Congratulations and happy blog anniversary! I wish you many more blogging fun.


K and S said...

Hi Bourgogne,

I think even the Filipinos eat all the of pig too.

Thanks Nate! Still, I'm sad I threw out the pork stock. I wanted to try soki soba.

Thanks Paz, crossing my fingers that it stays this way. Glad to share some of my culture with you.

Take care everyone.

Kathy YL Chan said...

Ay yah, that looks too good! I think I just might head down to Chinatown tomorrow to find the Chinese version of this dish! :)

OkiHwn said...

The best Chinese version is Tungpo Pork - awesome. Better than rafute.

K and S said...


I think you and Nate may be on the same wavelength! Take care you two!


OkiHwn said...

Only thing is that the Tungpo Pork takes 8~9 hours to prepare. Only by special order at Maple Garden in Honolulu. I don't know about NYC.

But it is delicious!

K and S said...

Wow 8-9 hours, must be super tender, Nate.

Take care.

OkiHwn said...

Yup, considered the ultimate of Chinese pork preparation. 2 hours soaking, 2 hours boiling, then 4 hours steaming.

That's why the need to order ahead. So soft you can cut it with a spoon.

K and S said...

That is a lot of preparation time. Is it also expensive? Though I think it would be worth it.

Thistlemoon said...

Wow Kat! That sounds like a meal to really get you ready for the Autumn days!

K and S said...

Thanks Jenndz,
I've been waiting for autumn for awhile now :)

Take care.

Anonymous said...

woah... you like pork belly?
the chinese have different ways of cooking it. my fave would be stewed belly pork with pickled mustard leaves (mui tsoy). im still trying to learn from my mother.
anyway, my shanghainese friend taught me how to do 'dong po rou'. its cheat version i suppose (we being students have no time/energy ahahah). she would just stir fry the pork but i would stew it. i imagine the taste whould be the same, because the ingredients is somewhat the same.
if you are interested, the recipe:
soy sauce, water, rock sugar, ginger, oyster sauce(in descending amount). stew a chunk of belly pork covered for about 2 hours or so on low heat.
it is indeed very fattening. if you leave it overnight, cold, you can see all those white solid oil on top.
i hope to make it again, and add some chardonnay in it (hahaha i have it 'rotting' in my fridge and not knowing what to do with it)
btw, i've been a silent reader, in australia.
good day to you! :)

K and S said...

Hi Jessica,

Your way of cooking pork sounds delicious! Thanks for de-lurking and leaving a comment!

Take care!

ilingc said...

I hear autumn is Japan is a sight to behold! A friend of ours reckons autumn in japan is more beautiful than it is in spring with all the cherry blossoms.

I will have to visit Japan in autumn one day just to see what it's like :)

The pork belly dish sounds like something my mum makes with soy sauce, garlic and boiled eggs (added at the end) - I think? Not sure. It's not my favourite either because of the fatty bits, but if/when I have it, I generally just discard the fat layer (and pretend it never existed) and eat the soft and tender meat. :)

Perhaps you could convince Satoshi to try it that way too ;)

K and S said...

Autumn is something to see, but because we've been having hot summers and warm winters, the colors aren't as vibrant as when I first moved to Japan.
Take care.

Yakyuu Shonen said...

More Hanshin Tigers imagery; I approve! I hope Satoshi doesn't have to wait too long to taste a championship!

K and S said...

The Giants have won the league championships, so I'm hoping the Tigers can win in the play offs this year, Yakyuushonen....we'll see...

Take care.