The holiday season is around the corner and we’re all likely scrambling to gather gifts for our loved ones. Before you splurge on that cashmere sweater for your gourmet-adoring significant other, you may want to reconsider with some food for thought. With the equivalent cost of that sweater, you could have the culinary experience of a lifetime: the Kobe beef experience.
‘Kobe beef’ are cuts of fatty, marbled meat from the Tajima strain of wagyu cattle that are known for its flavor, tenderness and its considerable fat marbling. As the name discernibly indicates, the cattle are raised in Kobe and the wider Hyogo Prefecture area. Cattle were originally introduced to Japan during the mechanization of the cultivation of rice, a widely known staple food in the Japanese diet. Interestingly enough, the practice of fattening then slaughtering these animals was an unpremeditated carryover of this mechanization, and an effort to increase a predominantly Japanese source of sustenance paved way for the introduction of this primarily Western provision.
Now onto the meat of the matter: what is it that makes Kobe beef distinctive and remarkable in comparison to other cuts of beef?
For starters, I can guarantee that with one mouthful of this prized delicacy, the question posed above need not be explained in words. With a minimum fat marbling ratio of 6 or above, the meat will dissolve in your mouth and intoxicate your palate, while the distinctive quality of Kobe beef will firmly forever fasten in your memory.
Next on the menu: what about the rumors of the ritzy lifestyle of these cattle that supposedly incorporates beer, massages, and classical music in the breeding procedure for the cattle? Although these are all a feasible set of rearing practices considering the Japanese penchant for ‘kodawari’ or ‘particularity’, they are all myths that have been falsely disseminated from origins unknown. In spite of this, Kobe beef is itself worthy of being chronicled as legendary. These cattle nevertheless are still raised in special environments to ensure they meet the selective criterion and classifications required for special certification. In fact, it is so selective to the extent that not all Kobe cattle that are raised are selected for slaughter.
While Kobe beef can found at upscale department stores throughout Hyogo Prefecture for home preparation, the sorcery of Kobe Beef preparation is best left to the culinary wizards. The diversity and delicacy of the presentation of dishes that these masters materialize is in it of itself enough to be blown away by. Beef sashimi and sushi, beef tempura and teppanyaki-style are all popular forms of preparation you will likely feast on. Professional chef or amateur, one should always be incredibly attentive so that your meat does not vanish, which could indeed happen due to the lower melting point of Kobe beef compared to other meats.
As for those restaurants outside of the archipelago that claim to serve up ‘Kobe’ beef, it’s safe to presume that they are dishing out lies. While many restaurants claim to serve ‘Kobe beef’, an extensive body of evidence authenticates that there is no way this is possible. The meat served likely is domestic raised wagyu cattle that has been crossed with standard Angus cattle. Even imported Japanese, non-Kobe beef is scant in the US market nowadays. The USDA has up to this date, not approved any of the ‘Kobe cattle’ slaughterhouses, and according to the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Association, Macao is presently the only legal export market.
In light of this, a Kobe beef experience will for the present moment be one that can only be relished while in Japan so if you find yourself in Japan, a quick stopover to Kobe is greatly suggested.