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Traditional Japanese pork dish gets a timely twist

Dear SOS: Ita-Cho restaurant on Beverly Boulevard makes the best buta kakuni [a Japanese pork dish]. My family just loves it. Any possibility of getting the recipe?

Cari Masuda

Beverly Hills

Dear Cari: Here's a variation on the traditional Japanese braised pork dish that won't take days to prepare. Ita-Cho's recipe combines meltingly tender cubes of pork shoulder or butt simmered in a sweet broth of soy sauce, mirin and sake -- with a little fresh ginger and chile powder thrown in for a hint of spice.

Buta kakuni

Total time: 2 hours, 25 minutes

Servings: 2 to 3

Note: Adapted from an Ita-Cho recipe. Ita-Cho serves this with Japanese mustard and steamed Chinese broccoli. Mirin, a sweet cooking wine, is at well-stocked supermarkets.

3 tablespoons soybean oil

1 pound boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 2-inch cubes

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup mirin

1/4 cup sake

2 tablespoons sugar

1 thin slice fresh ginger

1 dried red chile pepper

Pinch dry oregano

1. Heat a medium sauté pan over high heat. Add the soybean oil just until shimmering, then sear the pork on all sides. Remove and set aside the pork.

2. In a medium heavy-bottom pot, combine the pork with the soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, ginger, chile and oregano along with 4 cups of water. Bring the contents to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the pork is fork tender, about 2 hours. Add the water as the liquid reduces to keep the pork just submerged at all times.

3. Serve the pork in a bowl with some of the liquid poured over.

Each serving: 343 calories; 26 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 20 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 88 mg. cholesterol; 744 mg. sodium.

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