JA­PAN

Epicure - - SEEN AND SAVOURED -

Ja­panese beef or Wagyu (lit­er­ally ‘Ja­panese cow’), as it is pop­u­larly known, has built a name for it­self glob­ally with its su­pe­rior mar­bling that spreads like spi­der webs through the meat, fat qual­ity, suc­cu­lence and colour. But not all Wagyu are cre­ated equal – there are, of course, dif­fer­ent grades and breeds. Even the re­gion that the beef orig­i­nates from plays a part, due to the var­ied land­scapes and each pre­fec­ture’s pro­duc­ers’ breed­ing and car­ing meth­ods.

There are four main breeds of Ja­panese do­mes­tic cat­tle – Ja­panese Brown (also known as Ja­panese Red), Ja­panese Short­horn, Ja­panese Polled, and Ja­panese Black (which ac­counts for 90 per­cent of all Wagyu). The top three Wagyu in Ja­pan are de­rived from the Ja­panese Black and are dubbed Sandai Wagyu, which means the ‘three big beefs’:

• KOBE

Prob­a­bly the most well-known of the three, Kobe beef from Hyogo Pre­fec­ture comes from a sub­species of Ja­panese Black cat­tle called Ta­jima and is the first Wagyu brand that was pro­moted over­seas, thanks to Kobe’s pop­u­lar port. • OHMI

This comes from an older strain of Ja­panese Black cat­tle bred in Shiga Pre­fec­ture and boasts a smooth, sweet taste and very fine meat grain.

• MAT­SUSAKA

Only ap­plies to Ta­jima cat­tle that have not given birth and are raised in and around Mat­susaka City in Mie Pre­fec­ture, such as in Fukano Val­ley. Cows are fed beer and even re­ceive mas­sages – such pam­per­ing gives rise to Mat­susaka beef’s high fat to meat ra­tio and su­perbly mel­low flavour.

Ja­panese Wagyu is graded ac­cord­ing to a Beef Mar­bling Stan­dard (BMS), which looks at the meat yield (A to C for most to least) and the qual­ity of mar­bled fat (1 to 5 for low­est to high­est). On top of Sandai Wagyu, there are also spe­cial­ity brands and prod­ucts such as Iwate beef and Toriyama Umami Wagyu. The for­mer is de­rived from Ja­panese Short­horn cat­tle and char­ac­terised by its lean­ness, yet still re­tains re­mark­able ten­der­ness and taste. Toriyama Wagyu is the prod­uct of Makoto Toriyama and his cousin Wataru. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on Ja­pan’s BMS, they in­crease their grain-fed herd’s umami lev­els through op­ti­mised pro­duc­tion man­age­ment. The re­sult is a saporous meat that sends your palate’s umami re­cep­tors through the roof. More re­cently, another novel cre­ation has come into the spotlight: snow-aged Wagyu from Ni­igata. Beef is slow-aged in yuki­moro

(re­frig­er­a­tion sheds cov­ered in snow), which main­tains a sta­ble 1 to 2°C tem­per­a­ture and ap­prox­i­mately 90 per­cent hu­mid­ity in or­der for the meat to ma­ture and bring out a de­li­cious sweet­ness and mel­low­ness.

Ja­panese Wagyu Sir­loin

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