1.What is wagyu in the first place?
Japanese beef is also called "wagyu" internationally. Even though its meaning is well defined, many Japanese do not know it. So let’s talk about wagyu first before moving on to Matsusaka beef.
Wagyu can be bought in grocery stores and supermarkets across Japan. If you can read Japanese, you will see wrapped packages of meat that read和牛. Sometimes they also read国産牛 (domestically made).
"Wa" means Japan or Japanese, 国産牛 also means "beef made in Japan". This creates some confusion. According to the meat specialty store company "Righthouse" that helped write this article, this is an official requirement in the food industry. Their restaurant "Matsusaka beef M Hozenji Temple Shop" was named the top-ranked Japanese restaurant among foreigners in 2014 opinion poll by Trip Advisor.
According to this standard, there are 4 breeds of wagyu: Japanese black (Kuroge washu), Japanese brown (Akage washu), Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku washu) and Japanese polled (mukaku washu). They are all assigned an individual code to make it easier to trace them.
Matsusaka beef belongs to Japanese black that also includes Kobe-gyu and Yamagata-gyu.
2. Features of Matsusaka beef?
Matsusaka beef is produced in a part of the cattle that belong to Mie prefecture. Moreover, Matsusaka beef only refers to the nulliparous cows. It’s because their meat is the softest and most marbled one.
The 7-8 months old cows of excellent pedigree are gathered from across the country and their feed begins. Their feed includes beer, massage with Shochu (Japanese sake). Although a normal wagyu is fed during 2 years, Matsusaka beef’s feed can take up to 3 years.
The "meat piece of art" is born because of this type of feeding in the environment, blessed with top-quality natural resources. In order to protect the quality, there is an individual care system for each cow.
3. 4 most delicious ways to enjoy Matsusaka beef
Yakiniku is cooked at extremely high temperatures or else the taste of meat is lost. If the meet is fried over high heat, a protein coating is generated. This coating prevents meat’s flavor from escaping and creates additional flavor.
However, be careful as to not to overcook the marble meat or you will lose the opportunity to enjoy its taste. It is a good time to eat when the crust changes its color and the meat melts in the mouth.
There are various seasonings that go with the meat. In "Matsusaka Gyuniku M" operated by the Righthouse there are 3 main seasonings: sweet sauce that can maximize the flavor, soy sauce, wasabi and salt.
The sweet sauce is homemade and is compatible with both rice and meat. Soy sauce and wasabi allow you to feel the plain taste and also go perfectly with the expensive marble meat.
Salt allow you to feel the real taste of Matsusaka beef. You can also add wasabi to salt.
Sukiyaki is a thinly sliced beef and ingredients cooked in the iron pan. The most often used seasoning is warishita which is a Japanese sauce, consisting of sugar and say sauce, consumed with the raw egg. Sukiyaki made from Matsusaka beef literally melts in your mouth. Other ingredients include green onions, mushrooms, and grilled tofu.
By the way, as opposed to Kanto way, Kansai way of making warishita includes directly adding soy sauce and sugar.
Shabu-shabu is a thinly sliced meet with sea cabbage and other ingredients boiled in water. It is consumed with sesame and ponzu vinegar. Shabu-shabu allows you to feel the deliciousness of Matsusaka meat. Other ingredients include Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, tofu etc.
At "M no Gyunabe", another restaurant run by Righthouse, nabe sets with meat and vegetables are provided. They include "Gyu-nabe kuro"which is consumed with warishita and egg, same as sukiyaki, and "Gyu nabe shiro"which is eaten plain.
Another popular meal by the restaurant is "marbled meat sushi". Only a small slice of Matsusaka meat soaked in soy sauce is inserted in the sushi, so it is easy to eat.
Japanese restaurants, including those by Righthouse, constantly elaborate and add new flavors. Be sure to try several of them if you have interest in wagyu. It goes without saying that Matsuyama beef can be consumed in steaks as well.