Buta: Soy-braised pork belly
A new Japanese waiter at Bincho recently expressed surprise at the fact that we make all our own dishes from scratch, unlike several nameless Oriental establishments he had worked at previously. In a world where pre-packaged, frozen rubbish is served daily to otherwise ignorant customers, it’s nice to hold two fingers up to the easy way out and cook honest food.
We use three sides of British pork belly a day to make hundreds of skewers of buta a week. The belly is trimmed, and slowly braised in a rich soy-based stock with sake, caster sugar, star anise and cinnamon for three hours. The melt-in-the-mouth meat is then fished out and pressed on trays overnight, which firms up the flesh slightly so it doesn’t fall apart when we put a skewer through it.
The next day, the chilled portions of meat are stripped of skin, cubed and threaded onto bamboo skewers ready for the grill. The remaining braising liquor is reduced until thickened and is used to baste the skewers on the grill, the result being crispy, smoky chunks of meat, mouthwatering layers of juicy fat and a succulent, savoury coating of shiny pork soy reduction. Yum.