Japan Eats

Recipe: Satsumaimo no nimono (sweet potato with pork belly and ginger sauce)

‘Tis harvest season, and what better way to welcome autumn than with satsumaimo?

Satsumaimo (sweet potatoes) have a pink skin and a creamy texture similar to yams. They’re a popular ingredient in Japanese cooking, particularly during the autumn months.

Here, the sweet potato is cooked with pork and ginger. I recommend you serve this together with other dishes and share it out at the dining table.

Sweet potato with pork belly and ginger sauce

Sweet potato with pork belly and ginger sauce

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 300 – 350 g sweet potato
  • 70 g thinly sliced pork belly
  • 10 – 15 g (or 1 clove) ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 150 ml water


Wash the sweet potato and slice into 1.5 cm thick pieces. Place in a bowl of water for 20 – 30 minutes to remove any astringency.


Soak the potato in a bowl for 20 - 30 minutes.

Peel the ginger and slice thinly.

Pour 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a large pot on a low heat and and sauté the ginger. Once it begins to smell, add the thinly sliced pork belly and turn the heat up to medium. Braise the pork so that the fat begins to coat the base of the pot.

Now strain the sweet potato and use a paper towel to take off any excess water. Add the potato to the pot.

Mix with the pork so that the potato is fully coated by the oil. Sauté for approximately 5 minutes. Don’T worry if at this stage the potatoes look oily – that will change when the next set of ingredients are added.

Next, add the sugar, sake, soy sauce and water (in that order). The sauce should now almost cover the ingredients.

Cut the end of the paper.

1. Cut to match the shape of the bowl.

Cut off the the end of the wedge.

2. Cut off the the end of the wedge.

A finished otoshibuta

3. A finished otoshibuta.

Finished otoshibuta

4. Cover the potato with the otoshibuta.

Place an otoshibuta (a drop lid made from paper – see the photos to the left) over the ingredients and simmer on a low to medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes.

If the sweet potato is soft (use a skewer) the dish is ready. At this point, sauce should be left at the bottom of the pot. When serving, be sure to pour some of the sauce over the ingredients.

Daikon and pork cooked in soup

‘Butabara’ is the Japanese name for pork belly. It’s a rich cut, and one which goes well with a root vegetable like daikon. This soaks in the flavour, creating a wonderful broth. Ginger is added to offset the oiliness of the pork.

For this recipe, a casserole is ideal, however, if you don’t have one, you can make do with a stainless steel saucepan. Just be sure to be patient as using a regular saucepan will take longer.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Daikon and pork cooked in soup

Daikon and pork cooked in soup

  • Iron casserole dish
  • 1/2 to 1 whole daikon
  • 400g butabara (fatty pork belly)
  • 1 x ginger
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • Mirin
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 to 1/3 cup soy
  • Water


Peal the daikon and slice it up ‘rangiri’ style. Cut the pork into 5cm by 5cm pieces. Next, slice the ginger into thin pieces. Put the sesame oil into the pan and cook the pork, browning it on all sides.

Place the pieces of daikon in the pan and stir them so they are coated in oil. Cook them until the surface of the daikon becomes clear.

Add the ginger and then the sake and mirin to the mix. Next, pour enough water into the pan that the liquid doesn’t quite cover the ingredients (1cm or so).

Turn the heat up to to ‘full’ and once the mixture comes to the boil, turn the heat down and skim any gunk from the top of the mixture.

Let the soup cook on a gentle heat for 15 to 20 minutes, so that the ingredients have softened slightly and pour 1/3 cup soy into the pan.

Continue cooking so that the soup reduces 3 to 4 cm. Now slice another piece of ginger into thin strips and use it to garnish the dish. It is ready to serve.