Samui Wining & Dining
Beefy Bliss

A look at why Wagyu is considered the finest beef in the world.

 

5Have you ever thought about what’s the world’s most popular food? It’s one of those lazy kind of thoughts that drifts aimlessly about when there’s nothing else happening. Like when you’re relaxing in a hot bath. Or, seeing as this is Samui, when you’re dozing on a sun-bed. It’s a thought that leads nowhere, really, as you’ll then start to wonder if, say, rice or noodles are ‘foods’. But put on some more sun oil, turn over, and keep musing. Settle on burgers, for example – America’s national dish. And then reflect awhile about where burgers come from in the first place.

    The total annual consumption of beef in the USA is more than double that of all the European nations combined. In the USA ‘beef is big’, no doubt about it. They take great pride, not only in the quantity of beef they produce, but in its quality, too. Which is why the rise in popularity of the Japanese Wagyu beef has caused the industry something of a headache.

      As with the Tea Ceremony or bonsai, the Wagyu mystique is shrouded in tradition and accompanied by a certain amount of ritual. In fact you’ll even read reports about Wagyu breeding bulls being jealously guarded and refused export permissions. But, be that as it may, this hasn’t stopped the spread; Wagyu beef is now being produced all over the world. Although a closer look reveals that the word has two meanings.

 

This means it melts during
cooking, resulting in a more
moist and tender steak, and
giving it a silky texture with
a rich buttery flavour that’s
quite distinctive.rd.

      

      ‘Wagyu’ refers firstly to the Japanese tradition of breeding and maintaining a line of cattle which produces a very particular type of beef. ‘Kobe beef’ in particular refers to the cuts from a specific breed of Wagyu cattle, which is raised according to strict protocol and rules. And, despite many international beef products being labelled Kobe, authentic Japanese Kobe beef is not available for sale anywhere outside Japan, with the solitary exception of Macau. This has been going on since the early 1900s, and is overseen by the Japanese Wagyu Registry which meticulously maintains genetic and growth data on all such cattle. In fact, this is all thought of so highly that Japan has classified Wagyu as a National Treasure.

       But the term ‘Wagyu’ is now also used to refer to the meat itself. And what makes it so special is the way in which the fat is present. Some meat, veal for example, has no fat at all. Many cuts of prime beef have the fatty layer between the muscle-layers (inter-muscular fat). But Wagyu cattle have been selectively inter-bred over the centuries to contain the fat actually woven into the muscle layer itself (intra-muscular fat) giving the flesh a characteristic ‘marbled’ appearance. This is highly desirable for two reasons. The first is that this type of fat has a healthy ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat; it’s high in monounsaturated fat, which actually reduces cholesterol levels.

      And the second reason is precisely because the fat is in the form of tiny veins throughout the meat. This means it melts during cooking, resulting in a more moist and tender steak, and giving it a silky texture with a rich buttery flavour that’s quite distinctive.

      Today, prime Wagyu beef is being produced from genuine Japanese breeding stock in several countries with, debatably, Australia leading the Western world when it comes to consistency and quality. Unfortunately some parts of the world are now demanding totally fat-free meat, the USA and Australia in particular, making Wagyu an expensive connoisseur item in those regions. But not here on Samui!

      Wagyu really needs care in the way it’s cooked and should be either pan-seared or presented in the form of tartar. Traditional cooking methods such as frying or grilling are too vigorous and destroy the delicate balance of its flavour and texture. There are several superb restaurants on the island where you’ll be able to enjoy the world’s finest beef – you’ll find a brief outline below. These are by no means all the venues which feature Wagyu, but they’re certainly ones which have been tried and tested!

      The Library in Chaweng is a tranquil and very hip resort, with an impressive minimalist style and décor. Their stylish restaurant, ‘The Page’, features a superb ‘Tenderloin of Wagyu Beef MBS 9+ with red wine sauce, cream mushroom sauce and pepper corn sauce and complemented with vegetables, salad and Parmesan cheese’.

      Rocky’s Boutique Resort in Lamai is one of the island’s most attractive boutique resorts, near the ‘Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks’. Their top-notch ‘The Dining Room’ also features the velvety indulgence of the Wagyu beef, in this instance presented with a medley of organic baby vegetables, pommes bouchon, and a port wine reduction.

      The spectacular restaurant, ‘Dining on the Rocks’ at Six Senses Samui, in Samrong Bay, is one of the most dramatic dining venues anywhere in the world and, naturally, you’ll find Wagyu beef on their exclusive menu. And, while we’re in the heady realms of 5-star dining, it won’t surprise you to be able to add W Retreat, Banyan Tree and Intercontinental Samui to the list, too

      

 

Rob De Wet


 


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