One of the dishes I have ‘fun’ doing is the toban yaki dish from Nobu’s restaurants. I was first served the dish (with toro) at Matsuhisa, LA as part of my omakase meal on 28 Dec 2005. At Nobu Dallas (as of this writing), they do a salmon toban yaki; At Nobu Capetown, they do a hamachi toban yaki (as of this writing) and of course, they’ve always had the toro and kobe/wagyu NY Strip toban yaki’s at all their restaurants for the longest time.
The first question is: Where does one get the tobans used at all the Nobu restaurants? Well, as I discovered, apparently korin.com supplies the tobans to all the Nobu and Morimoto restaurants. Here’s the item from their website –
I was told by Korin not to heat this individual ceramic serving platter on an electric stove top; but it was ok to heat it up in an (toaster)/oven at around 350 degrees F. I’ve found it’s safe enough to raise the heat to 375 degrees for about 30 minutes to get the toban properly heated without any problems.
Anyway, I thought it would be nice to do the salmon belly (‘toro’) toban yaki for my new wife tonight. So I went to whole foods, and I asked them to take their thickest salmon steak whose ‘legs’ (the salmon belly meat) was quite substantial and split the steak in half along the bone and remove the skin. I then got that fish home, isolated the belly meat and saved the rest in the freezer for a future meal of salmon shioyaki (salt grilled salmon)
For the shiitake mushrooms, I remove the stems, decoratively slash the tops, spray them with canola oil then broil them for about 10 minutes to get the same effect as they have at Matsuhisa.
For the asparagus, I get the 6 pencil thin ones, wash, de-stem them and split them in half. For the broccoli, I isolate the florets (save the rest for another use), wash and set then aside.
For the sauce, since Nobu’s recipe pours sake, soy and yuzu juice into the toban in sequence, I simply mix 4 parts sake, 2 parts yuzu juice (make sure you get the yuzu with NO SALT ADDED available at Mitsuwa NJ or H-Mart/Burlington, MA) and 2 parts soy and set aside.
In the original recipe, 1 tsp of grated garlic is spread onto salt/peppered fillets and then thrown on the grill. Unfortunately, I don’t have a grill in my apartment. What I do have is a nice large wok with a circular teppan-like bottom (and actually, the recipe says a griddle pan would work!)
So what I do is that I mix a teaspoon of 4:1 salt/pepper with 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (think “dry rub”).
I then season the protein (in this case, the salmon belly fillet) with the garlic/salt/pepper ‘dry rub’. When searing the fillets, I do a dry sear in the bottom of the wok, letting natural fat render out. I then use that rendered fat as the ‘oil’ to cook the fillet. In the case of hamachi, I add a little rice oil to the bottom of the pan before I begin the searing process.
In the case of the kobe ny strip toban yaki I was served during a omakase meal at Matsuhisa, LA (29 Dec 2005), I saw how the steak was trimmed. I do something similar at home with NY Strips from Whole Foods. However, I do leave a little fat on the top of the steak which I sear last, so that the steak can cook in its own rendered fat.
When I sear in the wok, I heat the wok on maximum power and hold my palm about 1-2″ away from the cooking surface. When I can’t hold my palm that close to wok’s cooking surface for more than a moment (i.e. I have to yank my hand away), I reduce the heat to 50% power. I hand place the fillets into the pan and hand turn the fillets to sear each of the 4 lateral sides. One of the tricks I’ve learned over the years is not to move the protein while it is searing. If you give it enough time, it’ll detach itself from the cooking surface. What I sometimes do is to nudge the protein with my cooking chopsticks. If it refuses to budge, I leave it alone – it’s not done searing yet; if it moves/comes off easily, the sear on that side is done.
Once the sides are seared, I cooked the top and bottom sides of the fillet for about a minute on each side (it would finish cooking in the hot sizzling toban). In the meantime I would blanch and shock the asparagus and broccoli and then set them aside. When everything was finished, I would take the toban out and then spread about 2 teaspoons of clarified butter to the toban (when removing the toban from the oven/gas stovetop, I reccomend placing it on a larger ceramic or stoneware plate with a paper napkin sheet – that way you don’t accidentally burn yourself)
and then add the vegetables
then the salmon and the sauce
and then cover for transport to the table
and now ready to eat
Yuzu Juice (NO SALT ADDED!) – Mitsuwa, NJ or H-Mart Burlington, MA