The Flavors of Wagyu and How to Best Eat It
Highly esteemed across the globe, wagyu (specially-bred Japanese cattle) is widely-known to be delicious, but there’s more to it than that. This time around, we’re going to present you with some information about this Japanese delicacy that’s a little more in-depth. Why is it so expensive? And so tasty? What is ‘marbling’? How do I eat it to bring out the best of its flavor? Let’s tackle some of these questions about wagyu you might have! Top photo: http://www.matsusaka-kanko.com/
Types of Wagyu
There are actually four general kinds of wagyu, but in most cases, the term refers to meat from the Japanese Black cattle. Major Japanese Black beefs include Kobe beef, Matsusaka beef, Omi beef, and Yonezawa beef. Beyond just these, there are in total 166 brands across Japan. Beef producers are responsible for raising different brands of cattle, so the four brands listed above aren’t necessarily the most delicious, as each brand has its own virtues and traits.
“Why is it so pricey?”
Each and every brand has detailed standards set, specifying variables like rearing methods and periods, with only those cattle that satisfy these criteria being recognized under that brand. As a result, mass production is difficult and per capita costs are high, increasing the price. It’s said that one head of wagyu cattle costs four to five times that of an American one. However, as you’d expect, it pays off in the form of delicious beef.
For example, let’s look at Matsusaka beef:
Raised gradually over 900+ days (to fatten)
Not left to graze (to prevent movement)
Gently massaged with shochu (Japanese spirits) to eliminate stress (because stress builds up with a lack of movement)
Fed beer (the kind for human consumption) to promote appetite
Under these standards, the cattle are treated exceptionally as they’re reared.
“Marbling’s just fat, right? It can’t be healthy…”
In countries beyond Japan, fatty beef is sought after for steaks and other tender cuts of meat. However, the people of Japan particularly enjoy the fatty marbling of beef, called shimofuri. It’s in this marbling that the true virtue of wagyu is found. A moderate amount of fat intake helps slow the process of aging, and it’s been said that the fat in marbled beef has top-class anti-aging properties. Perhaps the Japanese are among the world’s longest-lived people as a result of eating wagyu for such a long time.
What’s the very best way to eat wagyu?
The answer is… sukiyaki! When you apply heat to Japanese beef, a characteristic aroma called wagyu-ko emerges from the melding of the red meat and marbled fat. When you’re eating wagyu, this scent permeates your nose and gives you a sense of sweetness. The satiating effects of wagyu-ko have even been verified scientifically, and sukiyaki, because it contains sugar, helps lock in this incredible aroma. What’s more, once you’ve taken a bite, letting it fill your mouth, you’ll experience the very heights of savory flavor.
Do you feel initiated into the secrets of wagyu? If you’ve the chance, be sure to try Japanese beef in its homeland!