Pork Belly and Potato Reduction

600gm pork bellies; 8 smallish potatoes; half a sweet potato all cut into bite sized pieces cooking oil; 3 cloves of garlic – chopped; onion -quartered; SAUCE: 500ml water; 60ml sake; 50gm sugar; 170ml soy sauce; 50ml mirin; and 1/3 teaspoon pepper

I’m not sure what to call this. It’s from umai izakaya menyu – Delicious Pub Menu from the good people at Orange Page . The only literal translation I could find was “dozy cook” , so either I’m missing an idiomatic interpretation or the writers having some fun. Anyway the idea is to cook the pork and potatoes in a sauce until the sauce is left just as a glaze. In context, it’s pot based Japanese pub food.

Not to absolve myself from being lazy with my Japanese study but translating recipes is hard. The chief problem is that dictionaries don’t really cater (‘scuse the pun) for food and, as seems to be the case everywhere, you can’t just have “sugar” but a certain kind of sugar that nobody knows. The end result is that most of my Japanese cooking is an exercise in archeology where I take fragments and try and make it into a meaningful whole.

This recipe seemed ideal for cooking in a cast iron camp oven. It could also be prepped in advance and the hour it took allowed for camp set-up and aperitifs.

The pork is lightly browned in some oil and then removed. The potatoes and sweet potatoes are also given a once over in the oil and removed. Now the garlic and onion are softened a little in the oil and then joined by the pork, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Then the sauce poured over, brought to the boil, and then covered with the lid and cooked for 10 minutes. Take the lid off and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce has almost entirely gone. Then rest it for 10 minutes.

It went down well and not as sweet as I’d imagined with the mirin and the sugar. There was just enough for four hungry campers so some rice might have helped in the carbo department.

One thing I did neglect from the recipe was the use of paper towels. Pictured with the recipe they looked like they were used to soak up the oil after the potatoes and then cover the dish instead of the sauce. I didn’t think this was necessary but I’m hazarding a guess that this was to soak up the potato starch coming out of the potatoes. This left me with more of a thickened sauce than the glaze I wanted and would be worth a trial later on.