If you love eating beef you have probably heard about Kobi beef and the mythology around it, especially around the way they are treated (relaxing music, daily combing, etc.).
Kobe beef (神戸ビーフ Kōbe bīfu?) refers to cuts of beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyū cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. Kobe beef can be prepared as steak, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, sashimi, teppanyaki. and more.
On my first trip to Japan I had their beef, or Wagyu, explained to me. From wikipedia:
Wagyu (和牛 Wagyū?, literally Japanese cow) refers to several breeds of cattle genetically predisposed to intense marbling and to producing a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat. The meat from wagyu cattle is known worldwide for its marbling characteristics, increased eating quality through a naturally enhanced flavor, tenderness and juiciness, and a high market value. In several areas of Japan, beef is shipped with area names. Some examples are Kobe, Mishima, Matsusaka, Ōmi, and Sanda beef.
Wagyu cattle’s genetic predisposition yields a beef that contains a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than typical beef. The increased marbling also improves the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats.
As the above states, the name of the beef relates to the location, with Kobe beef only coming from the Hyogo prefecture (think province or state). My Japanese colleagues did not think of Kobe as overly special, explaining that someone who loves Japanese beef knows their favourite region of Wagyu.
My first experience was at Acalli. It is an out of the way local restaurant with a great chef. We ordered a series of dishes with the finale being a beef and fish plate. It has to be a shared finale as 50 grams is JPN 2,200 (Roughly $28CDN/US). It is meant to be savoured instead of served as main course, which is very different than the North American steakhouse where you get a giant slab of beef and surround it with trimmings. It was amazing, the flavour is like nothing I have ever tasted before, bursting seems the right word.
Having located a Costco and acquired a BBQ (another story) I meandered through the beef section and was surprised to see row after row of US beef with the Wagyu beef tucked into a small area. Upon reflection it seems logical, Japan isn’t an island with a lot of grazing room to mass produce cattle.
Below is the tray of Wagyu that I bought.
Better yet, look at the price in the bottom right corner. 2572JPN for 461 grams, versus 2200JPN for 100 grams at the local grocery store …. Got to love Costco and it tastes fantastic on the new BBQ.