Cinnamon Braised Pork with Daikon

Cinnamon Braised Pork with Daikon

We’ve been getting more snow this winter than I can remember since moving to New York in 2006. The snow really transforms the city from a dingy grey concrete jungle to a pristine white wonderland that brightens even the darkest alleys. Walking up the middle of a milky white Broadway without a car in sight, or a horn to be heard, is truly a breathtaking experience and is one of the things that got me to move out here in the first place.

But the thing about snow in New York (or probably snow anywhere) is that it’s beautiful while it’s falling, but then you have to deal with at least a week of delayed trains, sidewalks obstructed by labyrinthine walls of snow, and ankle deep grey sludge. It makes leaving the apartment unpleasant to put it mildly. That’s why I like to keep the freezer stocked with braising meat, like pork butt and the veggie drawer filled with root vegetables that will keep for weeks, like carrots, gobo and daikon.

Cinnamon Braised Pork with Daikon

Despite having just returned from Japan, I found myself still craving Japanese food, but I was also in the mood for something a little different. This braised pork with daikon is a pretty classic Japanese nimono (stew), but I’ve added some garlic and cinnamon to take it in an unexpected direction. The stew has a deep earthiness due to the root vegetables, and the cinnamon adds sweet, spicy highlights that brightens the entire dish.

If you can’t find the same root vegetables, don’t worry, just replace them with whatever you can find. Parsnips, rutabaga, and turnips would all taste wonderful in this dish. Also, if you can find it, I prefer cooking with Cassia bark (a.k.a. Saigon Cinnamon) over “true” Cinnamon. It has a more potent aroma, has a sweeter taste, and is less biter. Now before you go and get too excited, you should know that that Cassia contains coumarin, a compound that’s “moderately toxic” to humans in large doses. That said, a lot of foods we eat contain coumarin including parsley, celery, and chamomile (though in varying doses).

The first night, I served the stew over a bowl of hot rice, but this dish really shone the second night when I reduced the sauce and tossed it along with the veggies and meat with some homemade ramen noodles. It would also be just as good tossed with your favorite Italian pasta as well.

Cinnamon Braised Pork with Daikon

makes 5-6 servings

2 tablespoons oil
1 block of konnyaku, sliced 1/4″ thick
1.5 pounds pork butt, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
1 large onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 gobo (burdock), peeled and cut into diamonds
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into diamonds
1/2 medium daikon peeled, and cut into uniform 1″ thick wedges
2 Tbs honey
1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
3″ length of cassia bark (or 2 cinnamon sticks)

Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat until very hot. Add the oil then the konnyaku (be very careful it will spatter). Fry until the smooth surface of the konnyaku becomes rough. Transfer the konnyaku to a bowl. Add the pork to the pot in a single layer and allow one side to brown before flipping and browning the other. If the pork sticks to the pan it’s not ready to flip yet. Transfer the pork to the same bowl as the konnyaku.

Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are wilted. Add the gobo, carrots, daikon, and honey and continue sautéing for about 1 minute. Add the sake, mirin, soy sauce, and cassia bark along with the pork and konnyaku and stir to combine. Partially cover the pot with a lid, turn down the heat to low and allow it to simmer until a fork easily passes through the pork (about 2 hours), stirring occasionally to ensure everything gets evenly cooked.

Serve with rice, or reduce the sauce and toss the meat, vegetables, and reduced sauce with homemade ramen noodles.

  • onlinepastrychef

    Welcome home, Marc! I imagine you had a fabulous trip:)

    The stew looks wonderful–warming and rich. I thought that perhaps a lovely sweet potato gnocchi would be nice w/this. You know, when you run out of rice and ramen! =D

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Great idea! I love gnocchi, but I suck at making it. Almost always
      comes out too soft and pillowy for my tastes. Need to make it a
      project to sit down and master it.

      • onlinepastrychef

        The chefs at my old restaurant used to mix them w/two bench knives–keeps them light and minimizes gluten development. They also baked the potatoes rather than boiling them. All they did was put the potato guts on the table, drizzled on egg yolk, s&p and a bit of flour and went to town.

  • i love paris

    I bet many folks don’t realize how well cinnamon and beef pair so well together, right? I know I was shy about pairing those two…. this is comfort food = )

  • Emma @ Shichimi

    This looks perfect for the chilly winter we’ve been having in Japan, too. And it can be made in one pot – always a plus for those of us with tiny apartments!

  • Sharlene

    Northeast winter-time perfection in a bowl. Love it!

  • Stephanie

    That looks pretty darn good, Marc! Especially on a frigidly cold day like today. Yum.

  • Tina T.

    Your site is great! Like your name “no recipes”. That’s really something I hope to achieve with home cooking! never thought of cinnamon before!

  • Rachel (S[d]OC)

    Great new twist on a braise. I wish I had the foresight to keep good braising meats in the freezer. I was stranded inside for too many days this week and my cupboards were close to bare.

  • Eftychia

    Another delicious recipe!!! Is it possible you give us links for the ingredients?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Which ingredients do you need help finding?

      • erika

        Where can I find the gobo? In my hometown we mainly have asian stores that is marketed mainly for vietnamese cuisine, is it possible to find it there?

        • Marc Matsumoto

          Hi Erika, without knowing where your hometown is it’s hard to give you specific recommendations. Gobo is also called “burdock” in the US and grows all over the place in New York. I sometimes see it in farmers markets there. Otherwise any Japanese grocery store should carry it. You may also find it in Korean or Chinese grocery stores, but not sure about Vietnamese ones.

  • patomaru

    Just a quick clarification, are you supposed to put the set-aside pork and konnyaku back into the pot along with the sake, mirin, and sauce. Also when should you introduce the cassia bark?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Sorry about that, I’ve amended the recipe. They all go in along with
      the sake, mirin, etc.

  • Weilan

    This looks delicious! Quick question – would leaving out the konnyaku make a big difference? Does it affect the sauce? It’s not easily available in this part of northern germany.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Nope it makes no difference in taste. Konnyaku is purely for texture
      (it has a crunchy rubbery texture).

  • Christine

    Wow! The food looks so awesome and also delicious. Love to try it. Thank you so much for this post. I really, really appreciated it.

  • Rosey

    Just found your website – awesome! Trying a 2nd recipe today.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Welcome! Glad to hear you’re enjoying it so far:-)

  • Jon

    Another awesome non-recipe, I made this with rutabaga instead of burdock and since I did not have any konnyaku I swapped it for some tofu. The tofu was delicious after boiling for an hour in the cinnamon sauce and made great addition in texture and taste. But the stew was a bit too dry and not salty enough so I doubled the amount of soy sauce to get it just right.
    Delicious! Thank you!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Jon, great substitutions! Tofu tends to be a lot bigger than konnyaku (1 block of tofu is equal to about 4 blocks of konnyaku), and it also contains a lot more water which is probably why you had to increase the amount of soy sauce. Glad to hear you were able to make the adjustments to make it work!


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