Braised Pork Belly with Leeks and Ginger
Awamori, a lightly sweet rice distillate, is used to blanch and cook, as well as coat in a sticky sauce, the tender cubes of pork belly, flavored with leeks, ginger, and dashi. Okinawa produces its own earthy type of brown sugar by slowly boiling sugarcane juice into deep brown blocks, but you can use standard dark brown sugar as a substitute.
- 1 (1 1/4-lb.) piece pork belly
- 2 1⁄2 cups awamori rice liqueur
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 leeks, white part only (1 halved lengthwise, 1 cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds)
- 1 (4-inch) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 cup dashi (see Noodles in Dashi for recipe)
- 3 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar, preferably from Okinawa
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce
- In a 6-qt. Dutch oven, combine the pork belly with 1⁄2 cup awamori, 1 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and drain away the cooking liquid.
- Return the pot to the heat and stir in 1 cup awamori, the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, the halved leek, ginger, and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the pork is very tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and transfer the pork to a cutting board; discard the cooking liquid and leek. Discard the skin, slice the pork into 2-inch squares, and return the pork to the pot.
- In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup awamori with the sliced leek, dashi, brown sugar, and soy sauce and pour into the pot with the pork. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook, turning the pork as needed, until the sauce is glossy and sticking to the pork, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the pork and leeks to a platter to serve.