May 29
2014

Making Nibuta (Japanese Simmered Pork Shoulder)

in Japanese, Main Course, Meat, Nimono, Picknicking

Nibuta with shoyu tamago, scallions, and sauce

I am not a huge meat eater, with one exception—there is a huge pig-shaped spot in my heart—I love pork.  Thankfully (unfortunately?) my friend Noriko understands.  Last month we spent Spring Break in Japan, staying at Noriko’s house.  Our kids had a blast spending every waking moment together, and are still bemoaning the fact that we live so far apart.  On our first full day in Japan we had a party at Noriko’s house with some of Mr. Fuji’s former co-workers and their families.

Party in Japan

Noriko prepared a feast, which included nibuta, or Japanese simmered pork shoulder, a personal favorite of mine.  I’ve prepared nibuta in the past, but it was never as good as Noriko’s, so of course I asked her how she made hers.  When we returned home, and as soon as I had unpacked, I headed to the store to grab some pork shoulder so that I could try out Noriko’s method.  It came out perfectly (except for the fact that I couldn’t share it with my friend), and I’ve made it multiple times since.

Nibuta

Nibuta is made by first simmering the pork shoulder in water in a pot with some leeks and ginger.  Then it is left to cool overnight.  The next day, you skim the fat off the surface and remove the ginger and leeks.  Then the pot is returned to the stove and the liquid is simmered down a bit, before you add a combination of soy sauce, miring, and honey.  After simmering for a bit, the pork is allowed to cool.

Making nibuta

At this point the pork can be removed from the liquid and cut into thin slices and served with some scallions cut into matchsticks.  Or, you can add some peeled hard-boiled eggs to the cooking liquid and stick the pot back in the refrigerator overnight, and serve the pork the next day with the marinated eggs.  The pork is fall-apart-tender and bursting with flavor from the simmering liquid.

Feasting on nibuta

The pork is also delicious served as a donburi (Japanese rice bowl)—rice topped with slices of the pork, marinated egg, and scallions.

Nibuta donburi

Nibuta also makes a divine bento (Japanese lunchbox), which also means it would be perfect to pack for a summer picnic!

Nibuta bento

Print This Recipe

Nibuta (Japanese Simmered Pork Shoulder)

Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings

2 pound well-marbled pork shoulder roast, tied with kitchen twine (optional)*
2 leeks, rinsed well and sliced in half lengthwise
3 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch coins
7 fluid ounces soy sauce*
7 fluid ounces mirin
7 fluid ounces honey
8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, optional
Scallions, thinly sliced into matchsticks, for garnish

1. Place the pork roast in a large pot, along with the halved leeks and sliced ginger. Add enough water to cover the pork by 1 to 2 inches, making note of where the water reaches in the pot. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low to maintain a simmer.  If you have an otoshi-buta place it on the pork, or if you don’t, place the lid of the pot slightly askew, and swirl the pot occasionally in circular motions to help ensure even cooking.

2. Let the pork simmer for two hours, skimming off any scum or foam that accumulates on the surface of the water or along the sides of the pot.

3. After two hours, take the pot off of the heat, remove the otoshi-buta if you’re using one, put the lid on the pot, and let it cool until it’s warm, then put the pot in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

4. The next day, skim the layer of fat off the top of the water, then remove the ginger and leeks. Return the pot to the stove, and bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat.   Continue cooking at a simmer until the broth is reduced to approximately half the amount of water that you started with.

5. Reduce the temperature to low, then add the soy sauce, mirin, and honey and stir to combine. Continue to cook for 15 minutes on low heat, then flip the meat to the other side and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, put the pot lid on, then let the meat cool completely. Once the pork has cooled, it can be cut into thin slices and served with thinly sliced scallions, as desired. If you want to make shoyu tamago (soy sauce eggs), continue with step 6.

6. When the liquid is still warm, but no longer hot, add the peeled hard-boiled eggs to the liquid, then place the pot in the refrigerator overnight, with the lid on. The meat and eggs are ready to serve the following day. Remove the eggs and set them aside. Gently reheat the pork on the stove over medium-low heat. Thinly slice the meat and serve it with the shoyu tamago, sliced in halve, along with thinly sliced scallions.

*Recipe Notes: Tying your roast before cooking it is completely optional, but helps gift it a more uniform shape.  (Don’t know how to tie a roast?  See this video to learn how!)  The pork must be started at least 24 hours in advance of when you plan to serve it.    If you want to serve it with shoyu tamago, or Japanese soy sauce eggs, you will need to give yourself two days.  To make this dish gluten-free, simply substitute gluten-free soy sauce, gluten-free tamari, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for the soy sauce used in the broth. Also make sure that the mirin you are using is gluten-free, or simply omit it completely! (Eden Foods sells a wonderful gluten-free mirin.)  This meat is very versatile.  You can serve it as directed in the recipe, or turn it into a donburi (rice bowl) by topping steamed rice with a few slices of meat, an egg, and some thinly sliced scallions.  It is also delicious in a bento (Japanese lunch box)!

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*Note: Japanese-style drop-lids, called otoshibuta, float on top of the liquid in a pot while it simmers, helping the heat stay evenly distributed but helping it circulate (which also increases the temperature), reduces the tendency of the liquid to boil with large bubbles, and keep the food from moving around. This helps create a gentler cooking atmosphere for braising! These lids are smaller than the diameter of the pot  you are cooking with so they can sit inside on top of the surface.  You can order them online, like this silicone one on Amazon.com.

*I love nimono (Japanese dishes that are braised, poached, or simmered)!  Here are a couple of other nimono favorites:

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe G. May 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Hey Rachael, Thanks for always taking the time to broaden our horizons. It’s one of the things I love about your blog. My wife and I love trying new things, and your site is a constant source of inspiration for us. We’ve already printed this one off and will be making it next week.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 31, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Thank you so much Joe! Let me know how you like it!

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Des May 29, 2014 at 5:40 pm

This looks SOOOOOOO good! I had never heard of it before but can’t wait to try.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 31, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Thanks Des!

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Evan Stein May 30, 2014 at 8:10 am

I’m a huge pork lover, and actually tried this once on a visit to Japan. I’m looking forward to trying my hand at making it myself. Thanks for sharing.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 31, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I hope you like it! I’ll curious to hear how it compares to what you tasted in Japan.

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Jody Brigthon May 30, 2014 at 4:42 pm

This looks fabulous, and your photography is gorgeous by the way.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 31, 2014 at 10:55 pm

You are so sweet Jody, thank you!

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Brandon June 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Wow. Wow wow wow. Both parts in the process here make my house smell so good, I can barely handle it! Never had this dish before (that I know of) though I made it cause it reminded me of the pork that comes in ramen or udon bowls that I love.

And I can’t stop sipping the broth.

However, I accidentally did not precisely follow your directions, and am wondering if you (or anyone else) have any idea how it might affect the finished dish. Instead of simmering the broth down to half, and then adding the soy sauce, mirin, and honey, I put it in right away. Potentially, I see this as making the pork flavored more intensely (which I am totally fine with!), but do you know if there are any negative side effects, flavor- or texture-wise, to adding these early?

Of course, a more delicate flavoring may be more traditional, so I’ll just have to make it again, I guess! :)

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Brandon June 7, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Also, are you measuring the “7 ounces” of those final ingredients by weight, or volume? It hardly matters for the soy sauce and mirin, of course, but it’s about 30% difference in the honey. In the end, it’s all just a matter of preference, but I like to know what you did so I know where to start from!

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) June 10, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Brandon, that should have read fluid ounces! Thanks for the catch! But it would work out either way. Also, to answer your first question, your liquid flavor will just be different. If you add soy sauce too early in the cooking process, it can lose its flavor and also make things too salty. This is why it’s always added at the end in Japanese cooking.

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Brandon June 17, 2014 at 10:31 am

Great to know, thanks. Well, 7 fluid oz of honey will weigh nearly 10 oz, so mine started a little less sweet than yours, too. It was still totally delicious, but I did have trouble cutting the pork into nice, beautiful slices. It ended up looking more like pulled pork. So maybe it was just my cut of meat, or maybe the soy/honey/mirin broke down the connective tissue even more? Making another in a day or two. :)

I kept the broth in the fridge and used to marinate eggs, and to add a little extra to rice & pork. After those eggs were all gone, I thought it was still pretty sweet, so I made up some more eggs and splashed in maybe 1/4 cup of usukuchi soy sauce for a bit more saltiness (after pasteurizing on the stove, for safety’s sake). Yum!!

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