…Sobagaki, a dish developed at Nobu Tokyo, took over a year to perfect through this process… –Nobu: A Memoir, p. 121
I’d been thinking about this dish ever since I saw the crab and parmesan sobagaki at:
Additionally, I found a video of the sobagaki being made at Matsuhisa: https://www.instagram.com/p/BucO9Oeh3On/
Looking at the recipe entry at World Of Nobu (from the late Chef Ricky Estrellado @ Nobu Downtown) on p. 125, I realized the ingredients list was the same as the Nobu West Parmesan Rice (p. 190). I realized upon reflecting on the recipe that ‘regular’ buckwheat flour was not going to be satisfactory, moreover, Ebisuya Medford reported that they didn’t carry the coarse ground buckwheat (shinsoba) I wanted. After watching the video and meditating on the matter, it seemed to me a ‘grits’ like version of buckwheat was in order. At that point I realized I might be dealing with ‘cream of buckwheat’. And so I went to Wegmans Chestnut Hill to get a small package of Pocono Cream Of Buckwheat. Based on the cooking instructions on the package, I scaled the Nobu West recipe to:
- 1/4 c cream of buckwheat
- 10oz + 1T +1 t dashi
- 1/2 c grated parmesan
I was making an educated guess that the flavor profiles would transfer from the Nobu West recipe. As an idea of how to do the dish as an entree offering, I came across items such as Lobster and “Grits” Soba, Poached Egg, Maine Lobster, Truffle (confirming my thought about cream of buckwheat? See http://theoverstampedpassport.blogspot.com/2014/08/new-york-city-food-edition.html ) and Lobster Soba Gaki, Foie Gras, Shitake Dust (see https://ph.asiatatler.com/dining/omakase-treats-at-nobu-manila). So it would appear that the sobagaki pairs well with shellfish. At that point, I started wondering about the origins of this dish. As I understand it, traditionally, sobagaki is a sort of thick ‘dumpling’ served with a dipping sauce. But in this instance, looking at the Matsuhisa instagram video, I was reminded of the notion of ‘shrimp and (cheesy) grits’.
I went over to my personal library and grabbed my copy of “Classical Southern Cooking” and referenced the write up on grits (p. 288-290). That recipe talked about using a minimum of 4c of water to 1c grits with salt (1/4t?) to taste; cooked until creamy. This
raised my eyebrows even more when I looked back at the suggested manner in cooking the buckwheat as 10 oz of water to 2 oz of buckwheat grits (aka 5c water to 1 cup buckwheat grits). I hypothesized that this was Matsuhisa’s take on Shrimp/Grits, especially given
that he has restaurants in Dallas, Houston and the coming Nobu Atlanta.
To do the poached egg garnish, I followed the instructions from Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook, p 18 (Soft Poached Quail Eggs With Applewood Smoked Bacon). I brought a pot of water to a boil, brought it back to a simmer and added 2 tablespoons of
rice vinegar. After I swirled the water, I gently poured in a cracked egg and let it simmer for about 2 minutes at a time and then
transferred it with a slotted spoon to top the lobster. I didn’t have any white truffles on hand to shave over the sobagaki; but I would
imagine the application of a few drops of white truffle oil, much like Matsuhisa-sama’s Soba/Buckwheat Risotto would work just as well.
My wife was really skeptical of the flavor profile. Upon tasting it, she commented that the amount of parmesan was perfect and lent just enough salt the the sobagaki and the lobster. For me, I thought the dish could use a little more parmesan for a little bit of sharpness and a touch more salt. I must say, though, that the basic amount of parmesan from the Nobu West recipe really translated well to this dish. I could see doing this with shrimp and seared scallops. For a vegetarian variant, I could see using the kombu/dashi stock and perhaps seared eringi masquerading as scallops. The question is – what would I use as an alternative to parmesan? One observation I would make about this dish: the serving portion was what I thought I would see as part of a omakase/tastingmenu course. As a main entree, I might consider doubling the recipe. Thank Matsuhisa-sama for sharing Chef Estrellado’s approach to this dish!
Pocono Cream of Buckwheat/Buckwheat Grits – Wegmans, Chestnut Hill,MA
cooked lobster tails – Legal Seafood Market, Chestnut Hill, MA