Everything tastes better when it’s on a stick… And nothing tastes better on a stick than pork belly (butabara). You may be more familiar with the Japanese term yakitori (grilled chicken) – kushiyaki (skewered grilling) is a broader term, covering everything.
Butabara kushiyaki is typically prepared two ways – grilled with salt or grilled and dipped in tare (sweetened and thickened soy sauce). In my mind you’re remiss if you’re not keeping it simple with salt and a squeeze of lemon. The flavor of the pork is what you’re going for here.
There’s really not so much of a recipe to this as there is just simple preparation. Prepping the pork is easier if you stick it into the freezer for an hour or two before cutting (if you are going to skewer with bamboo to cook on a grill, now is the time to start soaking the skewers in water so they won’t burn). First remove the skin – cut close to the skin, you want to leave as much fat as possible. If you’re finding it hard to get a good grip on the pork, use a paper towel to give you a bit more traction. The pork belly should be cut into a slab about 2″ wide and then cut into 1/4″ slices.
Normally, I’d grill this over a medium charcoal fire – but as it was 18º and windy, I opted to cook it in a cast iron pan. There’s no need to oil the pan, a this is pork belly (fatty). Sprinkle the pork with sea salt on each side and cook until it begins to brown. If you’re grilling you can turn often to keep it from burning. In a pan, I try to limit the amount of turning to give it a chance to brown (Geek moment: The browning of the meat is NOT a Maillard reaction – Maillard reactions involve the breakdown of sugars, and there’s no sugar here. The browning of meat is due to the breakdown of myoglobin. Some of the browning on the fat may be from Maillard…).
Serve with a squeeze of lemon.