The King of Meats
Wagyu or Wa Gyu which, translated means Japanese Cattle is a supreme form of beef. There are imitators and cross breads but only the real thing comes from Japan. Strict breeding protocols and high levels of welfare are part of the story that makes Wagyu such a tremendous breed.
Each head of cattle is nurtured with incredible care in fact each calf has a birth certificate with its name and the names of its parents, grand parents and great grand parents. Such is the importance of the Wagyu line that every step in its life is monitored and detailed.
The characteristic strong marbling sets it apart from other meats the fat contains the flavour and disappears when cooked and the oleaginous unsaturated fat increases the omega 3 and omega 6 content. It has a sweet nutty taste and is extremely succulent.
At the recent BBC Good Food Show I had the pleasure of listening to Professor Ken Sakurai explain the grading system A, B, C, 1,2,3,4,5 etc the best being A5. There were a couple of chefs on hand to demonstrate how to cook it. Not surprisingly Japanese ingredients played a large part in many of the recipes. Soy, miso and wasabi all play a role. One of the simplest was sukiaki, just a little soy sauce with sugar and sake. Place thin narrow strips in the liquid in a frying pan and cook for a minute or two on a gentle heat. The subtlety of the sauce with the sweet nutty taste of the beef is a brilliant combination. I could have eaten it all afternoon.
When you cut a slice of Wagyu beef the marbling is the most distinctive feature, there are no other breeds like it. The Japanese word for this intense marbling is shimo furi or hoar frost they believe it looks as if the meat has had frost coasting. As well as the cattle being catalogued they are (I believe) the only livestock animals to have a nose print to confirm and link them to their identity papers.
All of this comes at a cost of course but I think it’s worth it. You can obtain Wagyu in various restaurants that display the certified logo (A cattle head in front of a red disc in a rectangle) such as Benihana in Piccadilly and Chelsea or Tokyo Sukiyaki-Tei in South Kensington. It is also possible to obtain from specialist butchers such as the Atari-Ya chain and good food halls such as Fortnum and Mason or Harrods. Seek this ambrosial beef out, cook it carefully and you’re sure to be rewarded with a taste you won’t forget in a hurry.