One of the nicest things about running a relatively popular food blog is that from time to time, S and I will get emails from publishers, asking us if we would be interested in receiving copies of some of their new cookbooks. Regular readers know that S and I are both cookbook lovers. With a library of over 500 volumes, our shelves are literally over-burderned with tasty texts. We’ve actually reached a point where the wall of shelves that we had dedicated and had once believed sufficient for our collection is stuffed to breaking point — literally. A few weeks back, one of the shelves, and not by coincidence one that had been double-stuffed with huge heavy volumes, gave way. Now, we have cookbooks stacked in our bedroom, in S’ office, and on our small but fortunately sturdy coffee table. Still, we keep on collecting books, voraciously buying new works on a monthly if not weekly basis. So, of course, if someone wants to send us a book (that we actually intended to buy already), we’re not going to say no.

Of course, food bloggers are different from newspaper or magazine journalists (which S and I have also been). When a cookbook is delivered to the average editorial department of a printed publication, an editor or writer will most often be tasked to “review” it. That usually means a quick look at the author’s bio, the book’s pictures, recipes, and (of course) the accompanying press release. Based on this brief examination, a short review is generated and run as soon as possible (printed publications like to be the first to break any news to their readers). Food bloggers, however, are different. They actually cook from these books, testing recipes and making honest commentary on whether they work or not. They will also often reprint one or more of the recipes in these works, with annotations, revisions or suggestions. Over the few years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve come to admire many of my peers, who spend countless (unpaid) hours testing recipes, photographing the results and posting their often very articulate opinions for the world to read. Some of my favourite posts include Nicky and Oliver’s review of The Silver Spoon, Melissa’s thoughts on In a Cajun Kitchen, Clement’s ultra-detailed review of Bouchon and S’ own review of Kitchen Sense (but really, that’s only because I got to eat the results of her tests).

While I’m happy to get a free cookbook in the mail, I make no promises. With my schedule, there’s no telling when I’ll actually have time read it, let alone cook from it. Sometimes, the books will sit on a shelf for weeks, gathering dust. Others S and/or I keep returning to, trying to find an excuse to cook something from it. One book that we recently received and that we were very eager to cook from was Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking, published by DK. While neither of us have actually eaten at any of this celebrated chef’s restaurants, like the rest of the foodie world, we’ve heard lots about him.

The book is large, gorgeously photographed and chock full of some really interesting recipes and ideas. I really want to try making Morimoto’s lobster and foie gras balls; his squid strawberry ice candy; red miso souffle; eggplant shigiyaki; and beef belly tartare. The recipes are also very clearly written and each one is introduced with a short, personal note. One recipe in particular, a pork kakuni (slow-braised pork belly) served with scallop porridge, really made my mouth water. S, who is as into pork belly as I am, agreed that this would be the first dish we cooked from Morimoto’s book.

While this dish looks simple, there’s a lot going on here and you need to start your preparations way in advance. The pork is cooked for 8 hours, then cooled for 8 hours, then cooked for another 2. The rice for the porridge has to be soaked overnight in (home-made) spring onion oil. The results, though, are fabulous and well-worth the time spent making this. Morimoto’s technique of braising his pork with water and brown rice was new to both of us. The rice acted as a tenderizer and made the pork heart-breakingly tender. By soaking the rice in oil overnight, then cooking it with dried scallops and stock, the porridge was bursting with interesting and powerful flavours. Honestly, I could have eaten it by itself, without the pork, and have been satisfied.

This dish has immediately become one of my favourites. And because the recipe worked so well, I predict this book is one that we’ll turn to whenever we entertain. Hopefully, the other recipes will be as easy to follow and the results as delicious as this first one we’ve tried.

Pork Kakuni with Scallop Congee
adapted from Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking and revised by S
Serves 4

1 tbs vegetable oil
900g boneless pork belly (we used Kurobuta)
1 1/2 cups brown rice (we used short-grain)
1 3/4 cups sake
1/4 Japanese soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius (240 degrees Fahrenheit). Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole large enough to hold the pork over medium-high heat. Sear the pork belly, skin side down, until golden brown (abt 5 min). Turn over and sear the other side. Remove and pour away the fat in the casserole.

Return the pork belly to the casserole. Sprinkle the brown rice around the meat (we found that the rice grains resting on the top of the pork belly dried out during the cooking process and got stuck). Add enough water to cover the pork by an inch and bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover and transfer to the oven. Braise gently until the pork is tender (Morimoto recommends 8 hours). We left the pork in the oven for 5 hours, then switched it off and left it in the oven overnight. Uncover and let the pork cool for a couple of hours in the cooking liquid (we skipped this since the pork was cool enough to touch when we removed it from the oven the following day). Discard the rice and cooking liquid. Cover and refrigerate the pork belly for at least 8 hours, or up to 2 days.

Cut the pork crosswise into 4 pieces about 6cm wide. In a heavy medium saucepan, mix the sake, soy sauce, and sugar with 4 cups of water and bring the the mixture to a boil over high heat (stir to dissolve the sugar). Add the pieces of pork belly and reduce the heat. Partially cover the pan and simmer until the pork is very tender (about 2hrs).

Carefully transfer the pieces of pork onto a plate (they will be very delicate) and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid and reduce it down to 1 cup.

1/4 cup Japanese short-grain rice
2 tablespoons spring onion oil
2 dried scallops
1 3/4 cups chicken stock (preferably home-made)
sea salt to taste

1 cup vegetable oil
2.5 cm piece of fresh young ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
6 spring onions, green part only, cut in 2.5 cm lengths

To prepare the spring onion oil, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion slices turn a rich golden colour (10 to 15 mins).

Strain, discarding the solids. Let the oil cool before using. This can be stored at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks.

To prepare the congee, rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Drain well. Transfer the rice into a small bowl, add the spring onion oil and toss to mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let the rice stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Soak the scallops in warm water for 20 mins. Drain and flake them.

Combine the oil-coated rice, flaked scallops, chicken stock and 1 3/4 cups water in a heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring often until the rice breaks down into porridge (about 45 mins). Seasons with salt to taste and serve hot.

Juice of 1 lemon
1 burdock root (about 225g)
vegetable oil for deep frying
coarse salt to taste

Combine some cold water and the lemon juice in a medium bowl. With a vegetable peeler, remove the skin of the burdock (it may be easier to first cut the root in half). Use the peeler to create long ribbons of root and drop them into the water.

Preheat 2cm of oil in a deep fryer or deep saucepan to 170 degrees Celsius (340 degrees Fahrenheit). Drain the burdock strips and dry them well. Deep fry until golden brown (about 2 to 3 mins).

Remove the crispy burdock and drain on paper towels. Season with coarse salt.

minced spring onions for garnish

Since we prepared the pork earlier and it wasn’t warm when we wanted to serve it, we steamed the pieces for 10 minutes to re-heat. Spoon some scallop congee into four bowls. Top each with a piece of pork and some of the reduced sauce. Garnish with crispy burdock and minced spring onions. Serve immediately.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his three kids!


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8 October 2007


Wow. What an endeavor. I think I just might make the scallop congee by itself. In my Viet kitchen, I use onion oil for many things but I never would’ve thought to soak rice with it. It sounds delicious. Thanks for the lovely post.

Wow this sounds really fantastic. Though I must admit, I don’t think the family would be so enthusiastic about pork belly. I think the Scallop congee would be just fine for me. I am going to try this, but with jasmine rice instead. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Dear Joanne

Most of the fat was drawn out at the first cooking stage. Obviously, Jasmine rice is great for congee, but short-grain rice in particular is ideal for making congee because it breaks down quickly to give you smooth porridge.

Buta kakuni is our favourite – we usually go out to eat this – cooking it takes too long 😉

Thanks for the congee recipe – going to try it out this weekend 🙂

A friend of mine ordered this dish while we were dining at Morimoto in Philadelphia. She’s Italian-American and not big on Asian food at all. All the congee I’ve eaten has been extremely bland so I warned her. But she loved the dish – the pork was meltingly tender and the congee was delicious. I’m excited to get my hands on Morimoto’s cookbook.

I love this recipe! I made it twice this week and my dinner guests on both nights loved it! It is an easy recipe although you need to plan in advance. I agree with Aun about the porridge – it is really goodon its own. I soaked the rice for 2-3 days – the sushi rice makes great porridge – super smooth. I cant wait to try Morimoto’s tofu recipe!

I’ve had Buta-No-Kakuni on my list of to-tries for a while and was happy to stumble across this recipe!! The description of Morimoto’s version has my mouth watering for a few days. Now I am ready for this endeavor. However, I have a few questions regarding the recipe you posted (in UK, Morimoto’s cook book isn’t available..). You noted to add enough water to cover the pork by an inch. Do you mean to put enough water to cover the pork completely plus 1 inch on top? (so in essence, you are simmering the pork?). Also, you said to sprinkle the brown rice around the meat – Do you mean to throw the rice in the water that the pork is submerged in? Any clarification you can give will be greatly appreciated.

Hi Elle, Morimoto’s instructions suggest that you immerse the pork completely and add an additional inch of water above it. However, I find that the pork tends to float, so you can eyeball this a little. But buta-kakuni is definitely simmered/braised. I say to sprinkle the rice around the meat because if you simply dump the rice in to the pot, some of it will land on the meat and it tends to dry out and get stuck to it. Sprinkle the rice into the water, but aim for the area around the pork.

I assumed the rice had two roles, firstly to weight down the meat and stop it from floating, and secondly to help tenderise it.

Which brings me to trying to get a third use from it 🙂 I plan on saving the cooking liquid from the initial slowcooking of the pork and after removing the fat and pouring it through a muslin cloth saving it to be used as pork stock. Does anyone have any ideas on how the stock, and possibly in combination with the heavily pork flavoured rice, could be used?

Another, possibly obscure, question…I’m not a fan of vegetable oil and I usually replace it with sunflower oil when a recipe calls for it. Do you think that replacing the vegetable oil with the sunflower oil in the scallop congee would take away from it?

Dear Tim, you will find that there is hardly any liquid left becase of the way the rice absorbs most of it. But if you end up with enough usable liquid, I’d be most interested in what you decide to do with it!

In terms of oil for the congee, as long as it is a netural tasting oil that takes well to heating, you should be fine. The spring onions themselves are meant to deliver the predominant flavour.

Dear Alan, it’s enough if you’re serving it as part of a multi-course meal. For this recipe, the congee almost serves as a sauce/foil for the pork which is the main focus. But if you’re looking for enough congee for a one-dish meal, 1/4 cup probably isn’t enough.

Thank you for this great write-up! I also received this book when it came out and I never got around to cooking from it or writing about it. Bad me. 🙁

Anyway, you mentioned that the scallop congee was amazing on its own, but would you say the same for the pork? I thought this looked like a great dish to prepare in tiny bites for a tapas/appetizer party, without the congee.

Thanks again and have a delicious day.

Hi Trudy
We usually take what we get from the butcher 🙂 But skin off with fat left on probably leaves you in no danger of ending up with chewy skin on top. No special pre-treatment as the final dish is not crispy.

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