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This rich, shreddable pork shoulder soaks up all the flavors of the braising liquid as it becomes tender, absorbing the mixture of sake, light soy sauce, ginger, hon-dashi and black sugar. You can pile the shredded meat on squishy buns along with quick-pickled daikon, as shown here, but it would also be great on any kind of bread or over rice.

Black sugar gives this pork a robust, molasses-like sweetness that stands up to the savory flavors. It’s commonly used throughout East Asia (Okinawa is specifically known for its black sugar, or kokuto, production). It’s typically made by boiling sugarcane juice until it turns into a dark syrup; it’s then cooled and forms dark brown-black blocks of sugar. Unlike many brown sugars made from combining refined white sugar with molasses, black sugar preserves all the minerals, impurities, and natural molasses character inherent in the sugar. Its deep flavor is ideal for savory dishes like rafute (Okinawan braised pork belly) or Japanese curry. Black sugar is available at well-stocked Asian markets and online, but you can use dark brown sugar instead if you can’t find it. —Jessie YuChen

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Ingredients

4–6 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3 lb. boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), patted dry

1 3″ piece ginger, scrubbed, thinly sliced

1 cup dry sake

¾ cup light soy sauce (such as Kimlan)

½ cup (packed) plus 1 Tbsp. ground black sugar or dark brown sugar

2 tsp. hon-dashi (bonito stock powder)

2 red Thai chiles, thinly sliced

1 cup distilled white vinegar

1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more to taste

½ daikon (about 12 oz.), peeled, cut into 4″ pieces

2 tbsp. (or more) unsalted butter

4–6 Hawaiian or other soft hamburger buns

Cilantro leaves with tender stems (for serving)

Preparation

Step 1

Place a rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 300°. Heat 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Cook 3 lb. boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), patted dry, until golden brown on all sides, 5–8 minutes. Add one 3″ piece ginger, scrubbed, thinly sliced, 1 cup dry sake, ¾ cup light soy sauce, ½ cup (packed) ground black sugar or dark brown sugar, 2 tsp. hon-dashi (bonito stock powder), and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Braise, turning pork every hour, until meat is very tender and easily pulls apart, 3–4 hours.

Step 2

Mix 2 red Thai chiles, thinly sliced, 1 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. ground black sugar or dark brown sugar in a small bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved.

Step 3

Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice ½ daikon (about 12 oz.), peeled, cut into 4″ pieces, into thin ribbons. Add to bowl with vinegar mixture and toss to coat (daikon should be submerged); set aside.

Step 4

Melt 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Working in batches and adding at least another 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter halfway through, toast 4–6 Hawaiian or other soft hamburger buns, cut sides down, until golden. Transfer to plates. Mound some pulled pork onto each bottom bun and top with drained pickled daikon and cilantro. Close up sliders.

Do ahead: Pork can be braised and shredded and daikon can be pickled 1 week ahead. Transfer meat to an airtight container; cover and chill. Cover daikon and chill separately.

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