Follow Me Foodie to Akakuro-Buta (Japanese style Canadian Pork)!
Introducing Akakuro-Buta: the “Kurobuta” pork of Canada & where to eat it.
Could this be the new “Ferrari of pork” in Canada? It’s kind of neat introducing a new breed of quality pork.
The Akakuro-Buta pork is the Canadian version of the highly prized Japanese premium pork, Kurobuta. In Japanese, “Aka” means red and “kuro” means black, “buta” means pork or hog. Kurobuta means Berkshire, but the marketed name has grown in reputation, now carrying more weight and value.
Kurobuta is known as the “kobe beef” of pork in Japan. The Kurobuta is a black Berkshire hog in Japan, and the Kyushu states and Kagoshima prefecture are most known for Kurobuta. The highest quality of pork is not only Kurobuta, but Kagoshima Kurobuta which is 100% Berkshire pork also known as Black Diamond Berkshires. Even in Japan there is cross breeding so 100% Kurobuta pork is not necessarily easy to find. It is highly valued for its rich flavour and beautiful marbling, and is often used for shabu shabu (Japanese hot pot), steak, tonkatsu (breaded, fried pork cutlet), ham, bacon etc., and can be served and eaten medium which is usually the case.
I was lucky to try Kurobuta pork in Japan last year during Follow Me Foodie to (Tokyo) Japan, and in my article about Japanese food, people and culture, I mentioned the Japanese dedication to perfection. I’m not exactly sure how they breed and care for their Kurobuta, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their Kurobutas were given regular massages.
In terms of diet, the Kurobuta is fed barley, Japanese sweet potato (satsumaimo), and/or shōchū pulp (Japanese distilled spirit made from barley and/or rice). Kagoshima is also known for their shōchū and sweet potatoes, as to why the Kurobuta are fed these premium ingredients.
Kurobuta pork is unique to Japan, but since nobody owns the copyright to the name, anyone can technically call their Berkshire pork “Kurobuta”. However, authentic Kurobuta is most respected from Kagoshima.
Since there is high demand and low supply for this “world’s best pork”, export of true Kurobuta is in limited quantities and even in Japan there is only a small percentage of Berkshire pigs. Therefore, it is not that known, but the most popular genetics in pigs in Japan are Lethbridge hogs; however, they are not called “Akakuro-Buta” and ideally not sold as authentic Kurobuta.
Due to the limited quantities of Kurobuta, Canadian farmers created a one-of-a-kind breed of Akakuro-Buta pig, which is an imitation of the premium Kurobuta. The Akakuro-Buta name is not widely known in Japan, but it was only exported to Japan until now.
The Akakuro-Buta is specially bred on free-range family farms in Lethbridge, Alberta for the Canadian market. It is not a Berkshire pig, but a cross-bred with Landrace sows and Duroc boars.
The main similarity is the feeding formula. The Akakuro-Buta pig is fed a 100% barley diet, which results in a whiter and firmer fat and better flavour and visual appeal, compared to corn-fed pigs which have a greasier and yellow coloured fat. As I mentioned, the Kurobuta diet may contain sweet potatoes and shōchū pulp as well, so there are differences despite efforts to mirror feeding methods.
Unlike most North American hogs, Akakuro-Buta are growth promotant free (i.e. – ractopamine free), but they cannot make any claims in regards to antibiotics or 100% natural. Just like humans, animals get sick, so the whole “antibiotic” argument is a sensitive topic for a whole other article which requires more research.
In terms of flavour, they taste different which is somewhat expected. Mind you, even quality of Kurobuta varies in Japan, just like Sterling Silver beef. It is impossible to replicate the exact flavour of something once you take it out of its environment. That being said, Kurobuta is so limited in general, that this is still a good option and alternative to it.
Akakuro-buta scores 3+ points on average for marbling while most other pork is only 1-2 points. It is ranked amongst the top in all other pork in Canada for tenderness, juiciness, and high marbling, so in the context of Canada this is premium quality pork, but not exactly comparable to Kurobuta.
Since it is available at T& T Supermarkets I assume the target market is primarily Asian, who are the biggest consumers of pork in Canada. The traditional Asian community is not as concerned with where their pork comes from, so I am pleased to know Akakuro-Buta is reaching out to this market.
Although I support BC farms and the Sakura Farms brand of pork also exclusively available at T&T Supermarkets, this Akakuro-Buta cannot be compared. I have to do a side by side comparison, but my recommendation would vary depending on what is valued (price, locality, quality).
While the product is meant to be for everyday consumers rather than businesses, selected restaurants in Vancouver are featuring the Akakuro-Buta for the month of March. I was invited to tour the first three restaurants serving Akakuro-Buta pork in Vancouver, BC and each restaurant cooked it in a different style for their clientele. It’s a great way to sample the pork cooked by a professional before purchasing, however I still encourage home experimentation. An excellent dish has to start with an excellent ingredient, but the execution is a big part of it too and it tasted different at each establishment.
Follow Me Foodie to restaurants serving Akakuro-Buta pork in Vancouver!
(Only available at each restaurant for the month of March.)
Restaurant: Kingyo Izakaya
Last visited: February 19, 2014
Phone: (604) 608-1677
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson Street/West End/Downtown)
Address: 871 Denman Street
Transit: NB Denman St FS Haro St
Price Range: $20-30+ (Closer to $30+)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
It’s one of my favourite izakaya restaurants in Vancouver. Executive Chef Chikayoshi Kittaka is featuring the Akakuro-Buta pork loin for the month of March and only for lunch (open daily from 11:30am till 2:45pm on weekdays and until 3pm on weekends). I also got to sample a couple other izakaya dishes. See my post for Kingyo on a regular night here.
Note: I came here for the media preview of the Akakuro-Buta pork, so I will comment on the other dishes lightly. The following may or may not be representation of what is served on a regular night.
On the table:
- Made from scratch at Kingyo with fresh ginger! $4
- I am a fan or artisan sodas which are not uncommon nowadays.
- This actually wasn’t very sweet at all and heavier on the club soda.
- The ginger was fragrant, but not spicy and I wouldn’t mind even more.
- My favourite artisan ginger ale soda is currently Bruce Coast Fresh Ginger Ale.
- Lightly seared albacore tuna marinated with special mustard sauce, tomato & onion served with ponzu jelly $8.80
- It is hard to go wrong with local and sustainable albacore tuna.
- It is more or less prepared the same way at most Japanese restaurants and this was no different.
- I wasn’t too keen on the ponzu jelly though, although I appreciate the effort to be a bit creative and different.
- I prefer the regular ponzu sauce because the jelly was a bit chunky and I didn’t find it enhanced the dish.
- On that note, not having the tuna soaking in ponzu sauce was nice too.
- It was a nice and light appetizer and what you would expect.
- Kimchi marinated housemade tomato with Chinese chives, garnished with radish sprouts, sesame & original seaweed sauce $4.50
- This was unassuming and it stole the show. I’d order it again.
- It is not a vegetarian dish because of the sesame sauce, so just be warned.
- The tomatoes were meat, fresh, juicy, and not pulpy, powdery or tart. Well they were tart from the marinade, but not unripe tomato-tart.
- The thick wedges of tomato were aromatic from sesame oil and incredibly flavourful with a bright zing from the ponzu sauce (?).
- The original seaweed sauce had effortless umami from the seaweed and it was the savoury sauce for the tomato.
- The sauce is naturally slimy in texture since it’s pureed seaweed, but it goes excellent with the tomatoes.
- Enjoy a premium Akakuro-Buta steak with sweet onion and garlic sauce. Served with rice and miso soup. $14
- Executive Chef Chikayoshi Kittaka is featuring the Akakuro-Buta pork loin for the month of March and only for lunch (open daily from 11:30am till 2:45pm on weekdays and until 3pm on weekends).
- He wanted to showcase the high quality and natural flavour of the premium Akakuro-Buta boneless pork loin, so chef didn’t do too much with it.
- He marinated the pork for 2 hours in salt, pepper, grated onion, sweet soy sauce and garlic, coated it lightly in flour and then seared it.
- Since this pork can be served medium it is safe to eat pink, but this one was well done.
- It was whiter in colour than regular corn-fed pork and it was noticeable.
- There was no undesired pork smell and the fat seemed thin and around the edges, but highly marbled inside.
- Even though it was well done it was not nearly as dry as how dry a regular pork would be, but it was still on the drier side.
- It almost tasted like chicken breast and it seemed very lean, but the marbling was high and it was still moist and decently tender.
- Compared to an overcooked chicken breast this was still moist and not hard to swallow or chew, but compared to a medium cooked high quality pork, it wasn’t as moist.
- I think chef cooked it all the way through to cater to the palates of the public, but I hope they cook it medium and just educate their diners upon serving. They can always cook it through upon diner request.
- It was served with a dipping broth on the side which tasted like French onion soup beef broth.
- It was soy based and very salty and sweet with Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, miring, and liquid kelp stock with grated daikon.
- That’s a lot of savoury notes in the sauce, so it was quite aggressive and strong.
- I liked that they served it on the side so I could taste the natural flavour of the clean tasting, non-greasy, Akakuro-Buta pork (since that was the point), but a touch of sauce was nice.