The Kobe Beef Nigiri Experiment

Welcome to the inaugural post for my blog!  As a first post, I wanted to do something unexpected, while staying true to my experience of the Tunu lifestyle (where everything is cooked over a fire, whether it be a grill, a smoker, or in an outdoor oven).

While navigating the matrix of photos that is Instagram, I stumbled across something that absolutely stood out as an innovative, creative dish where I thought I would be able to create my own version and still fall within the requirement of having to cook over fire.  In this case, it was a photo of some beautiful slices of seared Kobe beef over rice – Nigiri (a type of sushi) style.

According to this Wiki, due to the fast-paced lifestyle of the Japanese, sushi was invented by Hanaya Yohei as the first “fast food” in Japan, which could be eaten on the go in public with chopsticks or with fingers.

Now, based on the above, while this can be considered “sushi” by us Americans, I’m not sure if it falls into the rules of traditional sushi. The ingredients are different (mainly the protein being beef, as opposed to fish), and I didn’t use any vinegar on the rice. While you can still eat it with your fingers or chopsticks, the dish literally takes longer to make than it would with raw fish.  Therefore, I’d be hesitant to call it “fast food” considering you’ll likely never find this at any fast food chains, let alone in a food court at the mall, or many restaurants.

This dish was inspired by another dish, originally prepared by Chef Reinaldo Lee (Instagram: @reinaldolee), who is a chef at Ícone GastroRock in São Paulo, Brazil.

Kobe_Beef_Nigiri-2The main star of this dish is the seared Kobe beef.  I chose Kobe beef because of the fat marbling, and how it appears on this dish.  It reminds me of a very nice fatty tuna.  If you want to try this with a nice Wagyu steak, by all means, let me know how it goes!  How you sear it is up to you; whether it be torch, hot grill grates, cast iron, or right on top of the fire, caveman style.

When I prepared this, I seared it in my Grilla Grills Kong, which is a ceramic Kamado cooker.  I went even further when searing, by adding sprigs of rosemary directly into the fire, and closing the lid to pick up some of that aromatic smoke.  For fuel, I used Royal Oak Hardwood Lump Charcoal.

There were some additional steps I took with the beef to be able to sear it longer than usual, without overcooking the interior.  Keep reading for the recipe and directions.


Consumer Advisory Notice

Remember: Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

The food prepared in this blog is cooked to temperature and desired doneness (in the case of searing), so as with any food you may prepare at home or eat at an establishment, be sure to cook to temperature (not time), and maintain a clean area whenever preparing food to not only eat, but serve to guests.

When in doubt, you can refer to the USDA’s “Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart” for federally approved internal cooking temperatures.

Additionally, if you’d like to cook your steak to the desired “doneness”, you can refer to this resource, which includes pictures and temperatures from rare to well-done.


For this dish, you will need the following ingredients:


  • 1lb Kobe beef steak (fresh if you can find it)
  • Avocado or Grapeseed Oil (used to provide a surface for salt to stick to the beef)
  • 2-4 Garlic Spears
  • 1 bundle Rosemary  springs (set 4 aside for compound butter and garnisment)
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons of butter (I use Kerrygold Irish butter, which is made from grass-fed cow’s milk)
  • 1/2 lemon (only need half)
  • Sushi grade rice (in my house, we usually cook a pot of rice for the family, but for this specifically, 1-2 cups, depending on how much rice you’d like to put under your beef)


I used my grill for this, and not all grills are created equally.  Some can reach extremely high temperatures, and some may just not be able to handle anything higher than 500 degrees.  If you prefer, you can sear the steak on the stove top in a cast-iron pan.

  1. Rinse and cook your rice (if you don’t have a rice cooker, this resource will show you how to cook it on the stove top)
  2. Unpack your Kobe beef, rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Apply a light coating of oil to the steak, just enough to provide a surface that will be tacky enough to hold the salt and pepper.
  4. Season both sides, and the edges with sea salt and black pepper, put the steak into a container with a lid, and stick in the freezer for up to 45 minutes, while you get your grill up to temperature. When I seared my steak, I got my Kong up to 600°F/315°C.
  5. While you’re waiting for the grill to reach the desired temperature, rinse the lemon and garlic spears.
  6. Chop up 1-2 Rosemary sprigs’ worth of needles and combine with 3-4 tablespoons of butter to create the compound.  If your butter is rock solid and straight from the fridge, you may want to take it out for a few minutes to soften up, which will make mixing the rosemary in a lot easier.  If you don’t use it all, not a big deal – you can also save the rest for another dish.
  7. Cut a few round slices out of the lemon (not too thick, about 3-5mm, then cut each slice into quarters.  (You’ll need one of the sliced quarters per slice of beef)
  8. Cut the garlic spear stalks at an angle, as thin as you want.  Cut enough to have 3-5 slivers on top of each of the finished servings.  If you can fit more, more power to you, it’s really delicious!.
  9. Set the lemon wedge slices and garlic slivers aside.  You’ll need these again once the beef is done cooking and is sliced.
  10. Once your grill is up to temperature, gather your beef and several sprigs of rosemary. (if using a stove top, you will need to skip the rosemary in the next step)
  11. Put the rosemary sprigs in the fire, and quickly put the steak onto the hot grilling surface, directly over the fire so that it will catch the smoke as the rosemary burns.  Close the grill lid.
  12. Sear each side of the steak for 1-2 minutes.  Once you’ve achieved a nice brown sear on each side, check the internal temperature of the steak.  You will want to pull the steak off the grill when it reaches an internal temperature of 120°F/49°C  for blue/bleu or 130°F/54°C (rare).
  13. Let the steak rest for 5-6 minutes before cutting.


Be careful during assembly, as the steak and/or rice may be hot.  Additionally, I usually wear nitrile gloves when preparing food, to avoid cross-contamination and to maintain a clean environment.  Take the necessary steps to ensure a clean cooking and preparation environment, to avoid any illnesses related to bacteria.

  1. Slice the rested steak into 1/4-inch thick slices, thinner if you like and you have a very sharp knife or meat slicer.  Stop and take notice the sear ring around the red meat, it’s a beautiful thing!
  2. Take some rice, and using your hands (or if you have a mold), form the bottom portion of the nigiri.  You can use as little or as much rice as you prefer, just try to achieve a balance of ingredients so the rice doesn’t completely leave the flavor of the other ingredients lacking.
  3. Using the compound butter you prepared earlier, make a ball the size of a pea, and put it on top of the rice, in the center.
  4. Lay a slice of kobe beef on top of the rice and compound butter.
  5. Sprinkle some sea salt (not too much!) on top of the beef.
  6. Add your sliced lemon wedge on top of the salted beef slice.
  7. Add 3-5 slivers of the garlic spear (or more if you like) on top of the lemon.
  8. Repeat this process until you have the desired amount of Nigiri.
  9. Use the leftover rosemary sprigs and garlic spears as garnishment when plating.
  10. Once done, take a step back and admire this food art you’ve just created (yay!)
  11. Take a photo, and share it!
  12. Eat (the lemon rinds and zest are meant to be eaten together with this, so don’t peel it off).



Closing Words

I chose these specific ingredients, because when I normally cook a steak at home, I usually season with garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper, all cooked in butter.  I then drizzle fresh lemon juice over it after slicing and eating to add a fresh pop of acidic citrus flavor!  This was a take from that traditional dish we make at home, however, in the spirit of “Tunu”, wanted to re-create it on the grill.  Effectively we created finger food where you don’t have to eat an entire steak (if you choose not to).  It will also make a very interesting discussion topic while entertaining guests as well!

Get Involved!

If you are well-versed in the world of wine/beer/cocktails, I would love to feature your pairing suggestion to go with this dish!  With your help, we can create a well-rounded dish that others will love!  If you’d love to make a recommendation, please send me an e-mail using the “Contact” link in the navigation bar on my site!  You will receive credit for the pairing and a feature on the blog.  Additionally, I will link directly to your blog, or social media account where others can find you and your own creations!

Be Social

If you give this a try and love it, please share it, as it’s fairly simple and inexpensive to make, but definitely packs a flavor punch!  Searing may take some practice, but practice makes perfect.  I’d love to hear your feedback, and hope to pass the inspiration along!

If you’d also like to keep up to date with new dishes and Tunu recipes, you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and via my Facebook page.

Ta fañocho (Chamorro for “Let’s Eat!”)

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