Locally grown Wagyu beef at wickedly AFFORDABLE prices??? Was I hallucinating? I did a double take at the Salcedo Market yesterday when I spied a sign for WAGYU BEEF and on closer inspection it was clear that they had several cuts from the carcassâ€¦from brisket to tenderloin to the fore and hind shins (osso buco). The saleslady explained that the cattle were grown in Mindanao and they were freezing the meat and sending it up North. It was not clear if the beef was at all aged but from what I could see, it did look significantly different from most local beef so my curiosity was definitely piqued. I picked out a packet of osso buco cut and paid an astonishingly LOW PHP350 (USD7) or so and realized there was very little downside to this experiment. But first, whatâ€™s the big deal??? KOBE BEEF, possibly the most expensive BEEF on the planet is from the Wagyu breed of cattleâ€¦but not all Wagyu is KOBE beefâ€¦
Over 150 years ago, the Japanese began cross-breeding Asian cattle with imported British and European cattle, with the intention of constantly improving the â€œmarblingâ€ of fat in the meat. The increased marbling results in a very tasty, delicious and softer meat. This process began in and around Kobe prefecture. Visit this site for more information. Since then, the cows and their beef, generically referred to WAGYU cattle (â€œWAâ€ for Japanese and â€œGYUâ€ for cattle) have improved over the years and today they are considered to be amongst the highest quality meats in the world. The whole story of their being massaged and fed beer is apocryphal in most cases, there just isnâ€™t enough land to roam on so the cattle are raised in tight pens and they donâ€™t get to walk around too much. But mystique and hype and marketing means that KOBE BEEF is extremely sought after by some folks and at USD100-150 a pound, it is wickedly expensive. So as economics would ensureâ€¦the Japanese have quietly shipped lots of these jet black and sometimes red cattle to the U.S. and Australia where thousands and thousands of heads are now raised and slaughtered and shipped back to Japan to be marketed as WAGYU which they essentially are, only raised on foreign shores.
My experience with Kobe beef is less than some but more than most folks. I had it over 20 years ago in Japan while on a short visit and I can say the experience was memorable. Ordering it in most restaurants is prohibitively expensive but I have on several occasions been lucky enough to have it. I think it is delicious, but I often fret that it isnâ€™t worth that astronomical prices charged. My best birthday present EVER was delivered in a non-descript little bayong with a ribbon on my 40th birthdayâ€¦ inside was a 5 kilo hunk of Kobe Beef flown in from Japan just hours beforeâ€¦ trust me, I was hopping around the living room with excitement! It was the best hunk of beef I have ever cooked in our home, bar none. But it isnâ€™t just the fact that it is from a WAGYU cattle. It matters how the cow was prepared and slaughtered, how its meat was stored, aged (the older the redder the meat and less moisture when you cook), and finally, how it is cooked. Recently, I had heard that several folks were trying to raise these WAGYU cattle on farms in Mindanao. I even heard that the first cuts of beef were already being enjoyed in Manila as of last year…in one case, as a nilaga which had about a 1/2 inch of fat floating on the surface of the soup! So it wasn’t a total surprise that someone had finally brought them to market…
On the drive home from the market, I wondered if I had done a dumb thing, buying the osso buco cut. Typically WAGYU is best eaten with a minimum of cooking and overcooking results in a very plain and boring meat. So the thought of slow cooking the osso buco in a classic Milanese preparation started to nag at meâ€¦but again, at the price paid, even a disaster wouldnâ€™t be a disaster, if you get my driftâ€¦I defrosted the meat and prepped it by tying a string around the pieces. I noticed it was a bit watery and bits from the bone kind of made it look messy. I suspect the manner in which it was cut, aged and frozen was less than best practice. But again, the proof would be in the finished product, up next. If you would like to get some of this locally raised Wagyu, contact VIGER TRADING at 816-10-34 or 0922-846-7112, or check out their table at Salcedo Market on Saturdays. The most expensive cut is Tenderloin at PHP2,000 a kilo and the cheapest is the Osso Buco cut or shin at PHP275 a kilo. Oh, just the bonemarrow, great for baking with some salt and raising your cholesterol count by 50, is just PHP120 a kilo. And no, I have absolutely no relation to, or interest in, this companyâ€¦I donâ€™t even know who the owners are!