This rich, shreddable pork shoulder soaks up all the flavors of the braising liquid as it becomes tender, absorbing the mixture of sake, light soy sauce, ginger, hon-dashi and black sugar. You can pile the shredded meat on squishy buns along with quick-pickled daikon, as shown here, but it would also be great on any kind of bread or over rice.
Black sugar gives this pork a robust, molasses-like sweetness that stands up to the savory flavors. It’s commonly used throughout East Asia (Okinawa is specifically known for its black sugar, or kokuto, production). It’s typically made by boiling sugarcane juice until it turns into a dark syrup; it’s then cooled and forms dark brown-black blocks of sugar. Unlike many brown sugars made from combining refined white sugar with molasses, black sugar preserves all the minerals, impurities, and natural molasses character inherent in the sugar. Its deep flavor is ideal for savory dishes like rafute (Okinawan braised pork belly) or Japanese curry. Black sugar is available at well-stocked Asian markets and online, but you can use dark brown sugar instead if you can’t find it. —Jessie YuChen