The Three Premium Japanese Beefs: Kobe

Kobe Beef. Source: Cecil Lee
Kobe Beef.
Wagyu: Sweet nectar of the gods. "Wa" means "Japanese" and "Gyu" means "Beef". Together, it means perfection. Legit wagyu comes from Japanese cattle breeds raised in Japan. These Japanese breeds provide some serious marbling due to the excruciating amount of care that goes into making these fine works of art. These cows indulge in fresh food, music, massages, and beer until their eventual sacrifice. Sandai Wagyu represents the top three premium beefs in Japan. These three masterpieces are all intricately marbled with thin, white streams of sashi (fat) that create an explosion of heavenly flavors when cooked. The tastes are MONUMENTAL

Kobe beef is amazing. If you've never heard of Kobe beef, I know what you're thinking: Kobe beef comes from Kobe Bryant. Understandable. But, no. It does not. Or, you might be thinking: Kobe Bryant is so good that they must have named a beef after him. Interesting conjecture. But, no again. FUN FACT: Kobe Bryant was named after this famous Japanese beef when his father saw it on a restaurant menu. Regardless of Mr. Bryant, Kobe beef is very famous outside of Japan. It comes from the meat of the black Tajima cattle in the Hyogo prefecture (similar to Matsusaka beef). Kobe beef is a registered trademark of the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association and must follow a series of characteristics. The animal must be either a bullock (the steer type, not the Sandra Bullock type) or a castrated bull for purification purposes. To be considered legit Japanese Kobe beef, it must have a marbling ratio of at least 6 and a meat quality score of 4 or 5 (B or A). The gross weight of beef from one bullock should be less than 470 kilograms and must be processed at a designated slaughterhouse in Hyogo. 



Kobe-style Beef. Source: VancityAllie.com
As demand for Kobe beef grew worldwide, Kobe-style beef was introduced in countries like the United States. It is often a mix between the original tajima strain and angus breed. These cuts of Kobe-style beef have a darker color and bolder flavor. It's much more affordable than real Japanese Kobe beef and it's better quality than the usual Angus beef. However, in no way does it compare with real Kobe beef. U.S. Kobe cattle are not treated as lavishly as some of the ones in Japan. If you ever order Kobe beef at a market or restaurant, be sure to ask for proof of authenticity or you risk getting ripped off. Anyone that sells the real deal will be willing to show you it's authenticity. 

Demand for Kobe beef can be attributed to the fact that the Japanese advertise and market it as a high-end delicacy like caviar or truffles. With a limited supply of about 3,000 cows a year, Kobe beef has the right to dictate high prices at the market. Some department stores in Japan sell Kobe beef for about $170/pound. Or if you're lucky, you can get a top quality Kobe beef for $320/pound. Sounds like a lot to pay for a chunk of meat but it's worth it. This is the first step to world peace. One small bite could restore your faith in humanity. 



Kobe Teppanyaki. Source: Richard Lee
Enough of the boring stuff. Time to talk taste. With a high fat ratio, Kobe beef resembles foie gras rather than steak. It's juicy, it's soft, and it melts in your mouth. It's very, very buttery. Kobe beef has a smooth texture, very different than other beef. The flavor is so rich that it is best eaten in smaller portions. The marbling is fantastic with snow-like streams of sashi. To get technical, the mouth feel of Kobe is completely different from any other beef. Kobe beef is incredibly rich and intense in flavor. It is typically prepared as steak, sukiyaki, hotpot, sashimi, and teppanyaki. If unicorn meat were real, I would imagine that it would taste something like Kobe beef. Just rainbows. In your mouth

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If you're interested, check out:

Laker Star Kobe Bryant Sues Japanese City Over Naming Rights to High-End Beef
Wagyu 101
Wagyu and Good Fat

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