Rafute is one of those slow simmer dishes that turns cheap cuts of meat into magic. The dish originates in Okinawa, a country known for its pork. The happy hog is used in TONS of dishes, but as I learned through working for Family Ingredients, this wasn't always so. One of our producers, Dan Nakasone, told us this story about a man from Hawai‘i that changed Okinawan food history forever.
In 1948, Okinawa was decimated after the Battle of Okinawa. A soldier from Hawai‘i came back to the islands to put together a relief effort for Okinawa. Reverend Whitmore wrote letter to General MacArthur to ask for his help to transport pigs back to Okinawa. In the midst of a war with Japan, the U.S. Navy agreed to help. The relief effort raised $50,000 to buy 550 pigs from farmers in Nebraska. These pigs were transported from Nebraska to Colorado and then took the 10 day journey to Okinawa with a team of seven Hawaii-Okinawans free of charge on U.S. naval ships.
To this day, an overwhelming sense of gratitude toward people from Hawai‘i can be felt when you visit Okinawa. Little influences of our local culture can be seen - they even have spam musubi stores!
My version of this dish isn't exactly traditional, but is damn tasty!
Serves 4 with full bellies
2 lbs. pork belly
1/2 C awamori (or sake)
1/2 C shoyu
1/2 C brown sugar
1 C water
1 t bonito dashi (dried packet)
1 small piece ginger, skinned
Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil with the piece of ginger. Add pork belly and allow to boil for about 30 minutes. Drain the pork and rinse. In the same pot, bring the water and dried dash to a boil. Add the pork, then the awamori, sugar, and finally the shoyu. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Simmer pork for about an hour, or until the meat is very tender. If the liquid evaporates too much, add more water and just a pinch of sugar and a splash of awamori and shoyu.
Serve with hot mustard and rice.