Japan Eats

Recipe: Nibuta (braised pork shoulder)

The perfect addition to that bowl of homemade ramen

Ever wondered how to prepare those succulent slices of pork that sit atop ramen? There are two basic approaches to preparing char siu (Chinese) or chashu (Japanese) pork.

The Chinese method is to cut the pork into strips and roast it in an oven or over a fire. It is seasoned with a mixture of honey, soy sauce and five-spice powder.

In Japan, the pork is more often prepared by cooking fatty cuts of pork on a low heat in a heavy iron pot such as a dutch oven (what the British would call a casserole dish). After the meat has cooked for several hours with aromatics such as garlic and ginger,  it is allowed to cool before being cut into slices. The resulting nibuta (braised) pork can be served on its own, or over the ubiquitous ramen noodles.

This recipe may also be prepared in a pressure cooker, but I prefer using an enameled cast iron pot such as those from Staub.

Nibutta: braised pork shoulder

Nibutta: braised pork shoulder

Ingredients (serves 4-8)

  • 1.5 kg pork loin (700 – 800 g loaf of pork loin)
  • 150 g onion (1 whole onion)
  • 250 g green onion (2 whole green onions)
  • 40 – 50 g garlic (4 -5 cloves of garlic)
  • 40 – 50 g ginger
  • 2 red peppers (dried, without seeds)
  • 400 ml sake
  • 100 ml mirin
  • 300 ml soy sauce
  • 300 ml water
  • 5 tablespoons of sugar
  • String for cooking

Method

First, tie each piece of meat so that it fits into your iron pot. Warm a flying pan on a high heat (without oil) and brown the pork well on all sides.

Next, place the meat into the iron pot. Crush the garlic using the flat part of a knife and remove the skin and any sprouts. Roughly peel the skin from the ginger slice into pieces 1 -2 mm thick. Cut off the green part of the green onion. Put all of the ingredients into the pot around the meat. Add the red pepper, sake, mirin, soy sauce and water.

Now peel the onion and cut it in half vertically. Place the pieces into the pot. Warm the iron dish on a medium heat. Once the soup becomes hot, add the sugar and let it dissolve.

Finally add water (not included in the ingredients list)  until the liquid covers the meat. Warm the pot on a medium to high heat.  Once the ingredients have come to the boil, lower the heat and cover with a lid.

One hour later, turn over the pork. An hour after that, turn the pork over again. Turn off the heat and leave the pot for 4 – 5 hours. As the ingredients cook, skim the lard from the top of the soup.

Once the pork has cooled, slice the pork (otherwise it will simply fall apart under the knife).

Finally, cut the white part of the green onion diagonally into pieces 2 -3 mm thick. Warm the soup and add the onion. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Present the sliced pork with the green onion and pour soup over the top of the pork.

A boiled egg would be great addition to the pork on a dish of noodles.