Pork Belly Kakuni with Scallop Congee

pork belly with scallop congee

I’m not what you’d call the most dedicated cook. I’m fickle… and probably lazy… and if I read over a recipe and it looks like it’s going to be either long or complicated, or will require me to scour the seven seas for perrywinkles and seaweed extract, I’m unlikely to give it a go.

This dish however… made me look twice.

Whilst browsing through my beloved flickr one day, I came across this outstanding photo from Santos, the talented author of Scent of Green Bananas. She’d been sent a copy of a book by chef Masaharu Morimoto (of Iron Chef America fame), and with some inspiration via Aun of Chubby Hubby, decided to give it a shot.

Now despite reading the recipe and finding out that the pork belly would be cooked for a total of around 10 hours, and would take around 2 or 3 days to complete if you follow the recipe to the letter, I figured that the end result looked too good not to give it a shot.

I won’t rehash the recipe here, you can feel free to get the real deal from Aun, or else go out and buy the book, which sounds like it’s full of a lot of great stuff. I will however give you a blow by blow account of the process I went through to make the whole thing.

Pork belly marathon checklist

  • Purchase one slab of boneless pork belly
  • Purchase 4 dried scallops (I got mine from Emma’s Yong Tau Foo in Northbridge), not cheap at $150 / kg !
  • Purchase sake
  • Purchase brown rice (I found some medium grain organic brown rice in Fresh Provisions)
  • Sear pork belly on both sides til brown all over
  • Place pork belly into an oven safe dish and cover it with water, add 3 cups brown rice to the water
  • Cook pork belly for 8 hours in the rice (mine was left overnight, and then cooked for another 8 hours after I realised I didn’t turn the oven on properly… stupid symbols)
  • Take the pork belly out of the rice and wrap it up, rest in fridge for 2 days
  • Make spring onion oil, by slowly heating vegetable oil with spring onions and ginger.
  • Mix rice for congee with spring onion oil, let it sit overnight to absorb the flavour
  • Soak dried scallops in warm water til they are flakey
  • Take pork belly slab out of fridge, slice it up into squares
  • Braise pieces of pork in sake, soy sauce, sugar, and water for 2 hours or so (I also added star anise like Santos)
  • Cook the congee using chicken stock, rice, dried scallops, and spring onion (I also added more pork, and a little coriander)
  • Let the pork cook until it’s nicely caramelised and falling apart
  • Serve the pork over the congee
  • Do not accompany it with an aged 1999 Gewürztraminer from Henschke (it will not do it justice)
  • Savour the taste of your labour

caramelising pork belly

15 thoughts on “Pork Belly Kakuni with Scallop Congee”

  1. heyo-

    tried the recipes a month ago and that scallop congee is just divine. the kakuni didn’t turn out so well for me because i was impatient ;)

  2. Jean, I’m a bit slow on the uptake :) I think mine was the other way around… but not by choice… I spent a looong time on the pork, and the congee only got a measely few hours… Flavour-wise, I don’t think the congee can compete with the pork, but on it’s own it was fantastic :)

    Ed, I think I should have asked you for wine matching tips beforehand… All that hard work and then a disappointing match was a bit of a let down… But let it never be said that I don’t give things a try :)

  3. I wonder how a riesling would have gone. Working on the basis of apples and pork, I think a young Mt Barker or Tassie riesling might have worked.
    Sometimes best to open 3-4 bottles of various things just to see what works best:)

  4. I was thinking of trying a Riesling actually… or a rather crisp Chenin Blanc from Voyager that we picked up down there… I like the idea of opening 3 or 4 bottles at a time Ed, but I’m not sure my stocks would last quite so long as yours :)

  5. lol. I had only found the recipe because I was googling buta kakuni when struck by a craving ;). Argh talking about this has triggered the craving for the dish now.

  6. Hey Matt,

    Have you tried just doing pork belly in master stock with coconut rice? Simple, easy, absolutely delicious.

    I started a new master stock from scratch here in Sydney, which was both good and bad. The good was that I got to start it from scratch with a really good mix of stuff, learnt from experience. The bad was that it simply doesn’t yet have the depth of flavour of the est. 2003 master stock that I have sitting at home. (Yeah, I know, it’s cool!)


    *Use a mixture of about 4 parts honey to one part maltose for the sugar component (note that the maltose isn’t actually very sweet, so you need to use more total sugar than usual)
    *Light soy instead of the heavier stuff – there is no need for the caramels in the heavier stuff if you have maltose for colour, so you can use a soy sauce that actually has flavour
    *Haven’t tried sake in it instead of shao hsing wine, but it could work
    *Dried mandarin peel is amazing
    *You can’t put in too many aromatics
    *Contrary to my fears, you can leave the stock with meat and cassia bark in it in the fridge overnight without the cassia imparting a bitter taste; do it – incredible flavour
    *Reducing the stock down helps to fit it in the fridge, but it does seem to boil off some of the flavour; you’re probably better off storing it at like a full 2 or 3 litres

    Give it a shot!


  7. Hey Luca,

    I’m yet to make my own master stock. I love the idea of the flavours developing over time and successive boiling with meats… but lack the commitment to actually see it through to any rewarding conclusion.

    The basic stock does sound good though, and similar to a few different braising concoctions I’ve whipped up for pork belly over the years.

    How often do you do something with the one you had since 2003 ?

  8. Luca, in my oriental family we use rock sugar instead of maltose in our master stock. All aromatics go into a muslin bag. We always have the minimum star anise, cassia bark, ginger, and dried mandarin peel in the mix. Shaoxing wine can be substituted with to good effect with sherry or Stones ginger wine.

    The best master stocks are those you continue to reboil and add to over time. So I always reserve some in the freezer to make the next batch with. The flavour improves each time and after a year you have an incredibly deep, rich brew.

    As for the belly pork dish we make something less complicated but very satisfying. We braise the pork in a claypot in a Vietnamese caramel sauce alongside ginger, galangal and star anise. Then we roast it briefly at the highest temperature our oven will allow and serve with a sticky reduction of the braising liquid which has had a little maltose added to the brew. I like to eat it with a cucumber and cabbage salad with Asian herbs and Nahm Jim dressing.

    Congee is something I do easily in the rice cooker and we make it creamy by adding sheets of dried tofu skin.

    If you’re looking for a white wine that will do this justice, go for a Marsanne.

  9. Hey Sticky, thanks for all that. How does the practicality of the master stock work ? Do you need to make something with it regularly to keep it boiling on a regular basis ? How much do you need to keep the stock going in the same vein ?

    Looks like I’ll be making more pork belly in the near future anyway :)

    I’ve tried to like Marsanne… I really have… but it just doesn’t do it for me. I just get abundant soapy characters. I think next time I’ll substitute with a Viognier or a crisp Riesling.

  10. Matt if you were a chef in a Chinese restaurant you’d probably have some Masterstock on the go all the time. I use it all the time but just make a batch whenever I have the bones etc handy, and throw in any left over stock and a takeaway sized container of it that I put aside each time and keep in the freezer.

    The masterstock is a great base for any sauce, and once you have an old one, is delicious simply as a soup with some won tons floating in it with some torn iceberg lettuce and coriander. Chef Greg Malouf makes a great claypot braised chicken with Middle Eastern spices in a five year old masterstock, he garnered the stock knowledge when working in Hong Kong years ago.

    I think Riesling would be too piquant with the pork, perhaps you would prefer a pinot gris? An Amontillado Sherry would possibly also work with the dish.

    Marsanne is often considered a white wine that will stand up to pungent dishes in the way a red wine will. With delicate dishes it can seem soapy.

    We had the All Saints Family Reserve Marsanne at their winery restaurant on the weekend that complemented both soft shell crab with Asian Flavours and a braised Cottechino sausage dish. There are also some bolder ones being made in the Limestone coast region.

  11. Awesome knowledgeable thread this… truly… from an Oz Saffa with a 9 yr old master stock in his freezer… great site this…

  12. Dried scallop congee. Oh! That’s such a childhood comfort food for me, my mum used to make it on weekends for brunch. I think you’ve started a craving… (and the best place to buy dried scallops is overseas and then bring them back in)

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