Meat from another world

31 Oct 2014
3 min read
It fascinates Michelin-star chefs as well as impassioned hobby-cooks. It has taken over 150 years for the Japanese secret to make its way to Europe: Kobe – the best, and supposedly most expensive beef worldwide.

Eating Kobe Beef for the first time is an experience which scintillates the senses. It not only tastes different than other beef, it is at the top of the Japanese food culture. No fewer than 2,000 years old is this story of the cattle of Japan, which were eking out existence as arable animals until almost 150 years ago. Only when royalty developed an affinity for Western lifestyle did the beef find its way onto the plates of the Japanese population. After rampant cross-breeding between Japanese cattle and European bulls in the beginning of the 20th century it became necessary to clearly define the four original breeds of „Japanese Beef“ (Wa: Japan, gyu: cattle). While three of the breeds play a marginal role, the fourth, Japanese Black („Kuroge-Gyu“), was a stroke of luck as it turned out. The Kuroge-Gyus are blessed with excellent genetics and tremendous breeding, bringing forth sensationally marbled meat that has been acclaimed in gourmet circles for several years as “Wagyu”. It has, however, never been tried by the masses, until now.

Finally, the guessing game is over as to how exactly Wagyu really tastes. For the first time a German gourmet delivery services is now able to supply original Kobe Beef to Europe.

Kon’nichiwa Kobe

Kobe Beef from Japan is widely known to be full of myth and mystery. According to urban legend, the Kobe cows are given a day-long massage and are bathed in beer. That’s only half true.

In order to be a legally protected and designated Kobe cattle, it is not enough to be “Wagyu”. Instead, only purebred Tajima cattle – a sub-race of the Kuroge-Gyus – are included in the illustrious circle. But that’s not enough: the Tajima cows must be born and raised within the Hyogo Prefect. The beef must adhere to the five categories: fat marbling, meat colour, firmness, texture and fat colour. All of which are examined, checked and carefully judged by the Argus-eyed tester. It’s not always easy being a Kobe cow, or is it?

Just a quick peek into the life of a Kobe cow will show that it’s quite luxurious. The majestic animals weigh in at an impressive 1,000kg. They live in small herds and for 8-10 months they solely feed on grass on rich pastures. That is why Kobe cattle are not only enormous in taste, but also in their physical appearance. After the first grazing period the precious Kobe cattle can look forward to be pampered with a very special nutrition food mix for about 20-22 months. Even if brewer’s grains and pure spring water play a role – among other ingredients – it’s far away from brewed beer.The cattle are massaged only when they’ve had too little activity and need additional stimulation in order to boost the fat marbling. The name of this incomparable meat is, by the way, the name of the city Kobe, capital of the prefecture Hyogo.

The Kobe certificate goes to …

If you are prepared to spend around €600/kg you want to know exactly what it is you’re getting, right? How did the animal live? What did it eat? Who are the breeders? That’s not a problem because the cattle are marked, the pedigree of the great-grandparents nicely documented and the traceability from handler to breeder transparent.

100 percent umami

Eating original Japanese Wagyu Beef warms the soul. It is extremely finely marbled with a fantastic buttery-soft taste and an indescribable texture. The original Wagyu beef is celebrated not only in Japan, but around the world as an exceptional delicacy that is beyond compare to any other meat. The rich, intramuscular fat of Wagyu is so precisely intertwined in the meat, one feels as if it has been painted in. The fat starts to melt at 25°C and therefore gives such a creamy consistency, available nowhere else in the meat world. Umami, the fifth taste, unfurls in an explosion on the taste buds. One may claim there is no other beef in the world which is so tender. Wagyu Beef – specifically Kobe – is something which is hard to describe on paper, you have to just try it for yourself.

Wolfgang Otto, Germany’s first meat sommelier, says: “For us it’s a great honour that we are one of the very few who are able to import this unique product into Europe and be able to sell it to our interested customers. So that everyone can experience the peak of pleasure, we have put together a Tasting Packet. Original Japanese Wagyu should be tangible to all.“

With thanks to Beatrix Eichbaum, Otto Gourmet