Kata Robata & Braised Pork Belly

I recently had the pleasure of eating at one the best sushi houses in Houston. After reading reviews about a particular dish, Slow Cooked Pork Belly, I had to get to Kata Robata immediately! It was an experience I will not soon forget.

First I had a seaweed salad. It was a typical seaweed salad, but the continuity of beautiful plate presentation throughout the meal was prevalent, even with this simple course as shown below.

Kata Robata Seaweed Salad with sliced grape tomato and mini lemon wedges

Kata Robata Seaweed Salad with sliced grape tomato and mini lemon wedges

The addition of lemon added a special touch to the salad as well.

Then, a heaping spoon of wasabi tobiko was handed to me from the Sushi Master behind the counter. Just as good as usual, with a nice presentation.

Kata Robata Wasabi Tobiko {& seaweed salad}

Kata Robata Wasabi Tobiko {& seaweed salad}

As the server placed the main event in front of me, I was immediately impressed with the presentation. It was like a work of art using my favorite medium…pork. I was then instructed to break the poached egg so the yolk would act as a sauce for the dish and to try to get a little of each component of the dish in every bite. I was like a kid in a candy store with excitement plastered all over my face. As I placed the spoon in the yolk and watched it spread across the other players in this dish, I could hardly wait to get a taste. I poked and arranged the morsels so I could grab each component of the dish pinched in my chopsticks.

Kata Robata slow-cooked pork bely with a 68 degree poached egg, sauteed spinach and pinenuts

Kata Robata Slow-Cooked Pork Belly with a 68 degree poached egg, sauteed spinach and pinenuts

Mmmmmmm…It was special. Pork belly with asian flavors, in, what I’m assuming, was the heavenly jus from the slow-cooked pork belly pot, sauteed spinach sprinkled with pine nuts, all topped with a 68 degree poached egg and a few sprigs of microgreens. The woman sitting next to me at the sushi bar asked what I was eating because she wanted to order it the next time she visited. With great conviction, I assured her she should.

Although in a million years I could not replicate this dish exactly, and due to the fact that my dad made a weird face when I told him about the poached egg, I decided to loosely replicate the dish I enjoyed so much that day.

Not as pretty as Kata Robata, but pretty darn good for my first crack at pork belly.

Not as pretty as Kata Robata, but pretty darn good for my first crack at pork belly.

Braised Pork Belly with Sauteed Spinach & Veggies

Ingredients:
1 lb pork belly
1 {16oz} box chicken stock
1 orange
2 Tablespoons brown sugar

Marinade:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 orange
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1″ ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tablespoon garlic chili paste {srirahca}
1 Tablespoon fish sauce {optional}

Directions:
In a large baggy, combine all the marinade ingredients and add the pork belly. Seal and place in a dish to sit. Marinate overnight.

Remove the pork belly, reserving the marinade. Using a long, sharp knife, cut the skin off the pork belly. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat with a splash of oil. When skin is removed place the pork in the pot and sear for about 3 minutes on each side. Add the marinade and half the chicken stock to pot and place in an oven set to 200 degrees. Cook for several hours {technically, you could cook this for 2-3 hours, but I always think low and slow calls for long cooking times, so I braised mine for 6 hours and turned it about half way through the cooking time.} If you notice the stock cooking down, simply add more as needed.The stock should be surrounding the pork, but doesn’t have to cover it.

Place the pork belly and the jus {stock/cooking liquid from the pot} into a glass dish and cover with plastic wrap or foil and place in the refrigerator.

About 1 hour before dinner time, remove from the fridge and carefuly remove the layer of solidified fat from the dish. Add the juice from the remaining orange and brown sugar, cover with foil and pop in an oven at 350 degrees to cook for about another hour {remove the foil after 30 minutes and cook for about another 30 without being covered.}

Serve with veggies and pine nuts, if desired.

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