Chashu is a Japanese dish where pork belly is gently braised in a sweet liquid flavoured with sake, soy, as well as other aromatics until tender and then sliced. It is most commonly rewarmed by being dropped into hot ramen liquid after being sliced or blow torched, known as “Aburi” Chashu. Many recipes call for the pork belly to be rolled and then carefully tied into a firm log, but I’ve found this step to add onto prep time, but not necessarily onto flavour, so I have opted for the unrolled version, bonus: it also cuts down on cook time. This dish requires very little hands-on cooking time and can be enjoyed a multitude of ways (favourites would be on top of ramen noodles or with plain steamed rice), making it a real winner if you’ve ever wondered how that chopstick tender pork belly at your beloved ramen shop is prepared.
Note: if you do not plan to consume the pork belly within 2-3 days, they can be cut into smaller chunks and frozen with the reduced braising liquid in freezer bags (make sure to remove as much air from the bags as possible).
Japanese Chashu Pork Belly 6 Steps
If the pork belly is in 1 large piece, split it in the middle to make two equally sized and more manageable pieces. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (cast iron is the best) on medium high heat. Add in just enough vegetable oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Begin browning the pork belly piece by gently laying the meat fat side down to start into the hot pan. Allow the fat side to brown and render for approximately 5-7 minutes until deeply golden brown, repeat this process on all other sides until evenly browned.
While the pork belly is browning, peel the thumbs of ginger, and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Combine the ginger pieces with the scallions, sake, light soy sauce, water, mirin as well as brown sugar in a Dutch oven or oven proof braiser that will also eventually fit the pork belly. Bring the braising liquid to a gentle simmer.
Once the pork belly pieces are browned, add them to the simmering pot of braising liquid, fat side facing upwards, cover with a lid and braise in a preheated 300°F oven and cook for 2 hours, flipping the pork belly pieces halfway through.
After two hours remove from the oven, flip the pork belly pieces so that once again the fat side is facing upwards. Allow to cool completely at room temperature in the liquid and then refrigerate both pork belly and braising liquid together overnight.
The next day, use a spoon to remove any undesired and excess fat from the liquid. Remove the pieces of pork belly and set aside. Strain the liquid into another pot through a fine strainer and reduce until thick and sauce like. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Slice the pork bellies into 1/4 inch pieces, brush lightly with the reduced sauce and either place under the broiler or using a handheld blow torch, char each slice lightly. Serve with additional sauce, sliced scallions with either soft boiled eggs, ramen noodles or steamed rice.