A few weeks ago, I was invited to a media tasting for Akakurobuta, a pork product that until now, has been raised solely for export to Japan, until now. Kurobuta from Koshima is a world-renown pork product,due to its tenderness, juiciness and marbling. It's aiming to be a twin to the Kurobuta, the berkshire black hog found in Japan. Akakurobuta, from Alberta farms, comes very close to the way the Kurobuta is raised, but enhanced by the Alberta's gorgeous grasslands, glacier water and unpolluted air. The hogs receive individual attention with their farmers, resulting in stress-free and happy hogs. They are fed on a diet of barley (resulting in a firm and white fat) versus other North American hogs that are corn fed (giving it a yellow and greasier fat). We were set to visit three restaurants where each chef was tasked to created new dishes with Akakurobuta. Our first stop was at Kingo Izakaya, where Chef Chikayoshi Kittaka served up Tonteki. It's rare for me to get a personalized menu so I appreciated this!
Another appetizer was the Tuna Tataki, which was served with a light Ponzu Jelly. This was just lightly seared and the Albacore had a really fresh taste. Finally, the start of the show, the Tonteki, a Japanese Style Pork Steak. The pork was definitely the star here, simply marinated with garlic and onions. The sauce had hits of Worcestershire sauce, mirin, oyster sauce and a bit of soy. Then it was simply pan fried and sliced.
Our next stop took us to Damso where Chef Eric Lee. Before the Akakurobuta hit the table, we were served their Beef Taco, which was really tasty. Simply served with sliced onions and greens, this is a great starter. For our first course, Chef Lee served up the Kimchi Jim with Akakuro-buta Loin. The pork is pan seared and then baked in the oven. The kimchi base gives the pork some flavor but the pork is definitely the highlight. It's super tender with a nice ring of fat around it. I loved the pork skin too!
The second course was the Akakuro-buta Gamja-tang. The pork is brined for 12 hours and then cooked sous vide. The broth is made with a blend of chicken stock and pork stock, giving it a very meaty flavour, which was enhanced by the addition of Dwenjang (fermented soybean paste), Gochujang (chili pepper paste) and Gochugaru (chili pepper powder). A few potatoes and cabbage rounded out the broth, which was served tableside. I liked the thickness of the broth but found the fermented soybean paste a bit overpowering. I'd probably cut back on this if I were to replicate it at home.
Our final stop was Secret Location, where Chef Jefferson Alvarez who made us a Burnt Apple Crusted Akakuro-Buta Collar Butt. First of all, I have to say that the serving size was enormous, especially since we already had three other pork courses! But I also have to say, it was probably my favourite of the evening. The pork was brined/marinated and seared. Simple but super amazing. The sweetness from the burnt apple was enhanced but a bit of the brown sugar and cinnamon in the original brine. This had an amazing crust and the marbling of the collar butt really shone through.
Akakuro-Buta is available exclusively at T&T Supermarkets. There are two cuts available, the loin and the collar butt. The loin has a thick fat cap and the collar butt has intense marbling. If you want to give these recipes a try at home, you can find them here. I tried to make the Tonteki with the loin that was given to me at the end of the media tasting. See my attempt here!