Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gyu The Cow

Update: I have been informed that Wagyu imported into this country are those of Grades 6 to 9, 9 being the most marbled and priciest. It is recommended that Grade 6 (which may be graded as 7 by other wholesalers, making it hard to compare the price) be eaten as steaks while Grade 8 and 9 Wagyu are very marbled and don't give a bite so they are best eaten shabu-shabu or sukiyaki style.

'Wa' means Japanese, 'gyu' means beef in Japanese. Wagyu is beef from special Japanese breeds of cow which are now not only reared in Japan but also in Australia and the USA. Prized and craved for their marbled fat, which is due to genetics and the special feed and treatment, Wagyu has more mono-saturated fat than regular beef, meaning it is 'healthier' to eat than regular beef. Wagyu is the most expensive beef in the world, Kobe Wagyu (Wagyu from cows raised in Kobe) being the most famous.

The wholesaler only sells Australian Wagyu in 5 kg blocks, so three of us shared one block. At a discounted rate of RM150/US$50 per kg for Grade 6+ Wagyu, I got 8 pieces for RM330, Rm41.25/US$11.50 per piece, very cheap by restaurant standards. I waited until Kid No 1 and 2 came back on holidays to cook the Wagyu, (Kid No 3 had by then cooked 2 pieces of the steaks for his own consumption) which I have eaten in Japan and Shanghai but never cooked before. Since my Wagyu was cut into steaks, I figured that was the best way to cook Wagyu. I was wrong.

Wey recommended pan-frying rather than grilling steaks, based on his experience. He said somehow pan-fried steaks taste better. I believe the guy, so I pan-fried the 3/4" wagyu steaks for 5-6 minutes on each side for my mom and niece who didn't like rare steaks. The remaining steaks were again sprinkled with a pinch of salt just before frying and black pepper was freshly cracked over them during frying. I fried them about 4 minutes each side and they were rare, a little too rare but we didn't bother to cook them again because they tasted so good. Just before serving, they were given a small splash of red wine and sherry. I also made black pepper sauce, an Asian favorite.

We agree that Wagyu is best cooked rare to medium rare than well-done and medium. When cooked to medium-well, the beef tasted like good ordinary beef, only more tender. When done rare, each bite released juice that was buttery and smooth, after which you taste that bite of flavorful, tender meat. We ate very fast, not talking, finishing all the steaks first, clearing our palates with a great Spanish red wine in between bites, then dutifully ate the sides: taters and salad. Which actually was the right way because the meat was so good nothing else on the table was worth eating. Juicy, tender, flavorful and buttery-smooth is the only way I can describe Wagyu.

I obsessed about Waygu all night after that, thinking about ways in which this wonderful meat can be cooked to its best gastronomic potential. I felt that Wagyu shouldn't be eaten in a large chunk. First of all, because it was a big piece of steak, it got cold before I could chew half of it. With so much (cold) fat in it, I felt rather uncomfortable by the time I got to the last bite. Second, the seared part of the meat, the surfaces, were very flavorful but cooked as a steak, the surface area was limited. I remembered the thin slices--about 1/6" or 1/3 cm thick--of Wagyu in a Korean restaurant in Shanghai and how flavorful and delicious they were, grilled over a fire at our table and served with a flavored salt dip. That was one way to maximize the grilled surfaces of Wagyu, and I wished I had more Wagyu to experiment on.

The next day, I searched for my copy of 'The Man Who Ate Everything' by my food idol, Jerry Steingarten, because I remembered he ate everything and wrote about it. I wish I'd kept the food articles in all those Vogue magazines that I used to buy when Steingarten was the food writer. It wasn't for the silly fashion that I bought Vogue: I would read Steingarten's pages, savoring every sentence, before I looked at other pages.

Steingarten too had no idea what to do with his Wagyu so like me, he also made steaks out of them, and like me, he wasn't sure if that was the best way to eat Wagyu. But his job paid obscenely for him to find that sort of thing out, so he flew to Osaka, Japan to eat the best Wagyu dinner in a restaurant called Devon Steak (I know, ironic).

At Devon Steak, Steingarten ate Wagyu 2 ways: raw slices ("tasted more like tuna than beef") and teppanyakied strips, eaten with dips of soy, garlic, honey, miso and a spicy house dip. Steingarten declared that it was the best beef he had ever eaten.

That confirmed my suspicions, that Wagyu is to be cut into thin strips (but not paper thin unless it's for shabu shabu or sukiyaki, which was how we ate Wagyu in Tokyo and my memories of that meal is that I couldn't taste the beef because it was cut so thin and there was so little to go around...) or even cubes, sauteed on all sides not only to get the meat juice caramelized, as Steingarten put it, but also to sear the wondrous streaks of fat so that the flavor of the buttery fat is released. Cooked as steaks, the fat inside do not get seared which is a pity.

What I will do the next time I get my hands on a slab of Wagyu is to:

1. Have the Wagyu cut into 2" steaks. Thaw the steaks in a cool place for about 2 hours. Surprisingly, very little blood will seep out, maybe because there is more fat and less meat compared to regular beef.

2. Rub salt all over just before cooking, pan-fry them on a very hot griddle/grill plate until they are browned and crisp, turning once only, then slice them into strips or small cubes on the grill plate so that all sides can get seared, then sprinkle some freshly cracked pepper over, and finally douse them with brandy like they did at Devon Steak, count a few seconds for the alcohol to evaporate, then serve immediately. Mmmm. Heaven.

3. The fat can be left on the steak or cut off and sauteed separately. Be brave and taste some if not all, because Wagyu fat is the softest, sweetest fat you'll ever eat. Reminded me of foie gras.

I didn't use butter to fry the Wagyu, so I decided to put a thin pat of butter on the cooked steak, which was totally unnecessary.

Meltingly soft, tender, flavorful and sweet Wagyu.

Coated by a black pepper sauce, this piece of Wagyu was wasted because I couldn't taste the full flavor of the meat with all that cream, pepper, shallots and wine.


mott said...

Ohh..looks so good!! I have a 500gm Eye Fillet in my fridge, and love it when pan-fried with salt n black pepper. But...I will try it your way, for my kids.

Thanks for sharing

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

black pepper sauce?? is the recipe somewhere in ur blog? planning to make a sauce for some bbq steaks..

no wagyu though =(

Precious Pea said...

My bro in law taught us to panfry it plain (pan must be HOT), then sprinkle with a little bit of salt when you serve way to enjoy a piece of fresh wagyu beef. about it also salivating oledi. Terri, am leaving Fri to be feeling very sad already.

NEE said...

this is really really making me very hungry...

Rei said...

The marbling looks beautiful! I agree it's best eaten shabu-shabu/suliyakistyle. Personal preference will still be Yakiniku style. The fat melts and leaving the meat moist and tender. *drools. Now I need to get my fix!

Y1 said...

Where can one buy good beef steak (not wagyu lah, too expensive) to pan fry in KK?

Tong Hing, Merdeka Supermarket or?

Must it be fresh, what about frozen?

Which cut is best for pan fry?

Anonymous said...

where did u get your wagyu from? im really interested. mind sharing ur contacts?

Shan said...

Okay Terri. You're clearly trying to torture me here :D

Heh the wagyu looks amazingly delicious. And you're perfectly right- in kitchen all we used to season steaks with was salt and cracked black pepper. Bearnaise was served on the side (as was a large bottle of wine hehe).

Which wholesaler was this? The one in Damai?

terri@adailyobsession said...

mott: mmm...sounds delicious already

joe: yes sir

pp: me too, altho u r not in kk, i feel sad everytime someone leaves the country. but like i said, there's good n bad in both countries but at least u r going to a place where politicians make policies in the interest of the ppl, most of the time.

nee:tt's the idea:D

rei: ah, so tt's what it's called, yakiniku.

y1: fresh imported beef can be bought at tong hing n merdeka, tho merdeka is very very limited. my friend got the wagyu from jetsin in bandaran berjaya but my regular wholesaler, hong seng, carries wagyu too. rib eye, sirloin n fillet r good for pan-frying. ask the boss in the shop n he'll recommend u. dont ask his ma.

anon: see above

shan: great to know i finally figured this out, yes, serve good steaks plain with sauce on the side. u can get the wagyu at hong seng in damai for same price but my friend got our block frm jetsin in bandaran berjaya.


Anonymous said...

It is not Rgt180. per kilo. Only Rgt 150 or 160. Was told by the wholesaler to defrost for 2days in the chiller. Before cooking, you need to leave it at room temp for an hr.I just pan fried it in a hot pan for 5/6 min.With salt and pepper. It was so good. When can we order again?.

terri@adailyobsession said...

anon: is this Yo? i called the guy n indeed he said it was rm150/kg for grade 6+ wagyu. i thot u said it was rm180? anyway, i was told tt they have grade 8+ (the melt-in-your-mouth wagyu) for rm220/kg (with discount for me but i can't reveal it here). thing is, they only sell in 5 to 6 kg block . hong seng said they can sell by the kg, which is great, but they r out of grade 7 (which is prolly 6+ in the other place) n more stock will arrive end of the month. we share again?!:D

bryan said...

I'm tempted to offer to buy the whole block, you cook it and keep half and give the rest to me. :D

Droolworthy indeed.

Western Dental said...

Thank you for posting such an in-depth analysis and great photos. I would love to try this meat some day.

Sally said...

Thanks Terri for your wonderful blog. I recently stumbled upon it while searching for prawn crackers and have since been enjoying my daily visits to it.
I like to share my experience with wagyu beef.
Sirloin (or Porterhouse, as it is known in Australia) wagyu is our family favourite beef. As we live in Brisbane, it's easily available and here it costs between AUD39 to AUD79 for Grade 3 and Grade 11 respectively. Yes, grade 11! I've only come across such high grade wagyu this last Christmas. Usually, the highest grade available is 7. We brought some Grade 11 back to KK over the New Year and found it too be very rich and has to be gobbled up quickly as the cold fat is not that pleasant.
The butcher whom I got the beef from advised me to cook it to at least medium-well-done because of the high fat content, unless I want to eat raw fat, so I make sure I serve it pink and not in any way rare.
The way we cook our wagyu is to cut it into finger-sized strips and pan fry over medium high heat. I lay piece by piece down into a medium-sized heated non stick pan and by the time it's all lined up, I start to turn the 1st piece, then the next and the next till the last is done. After that I'll go back to the 1st piece and turn it to it's 3rd side and repeat the whole process till all 4 sides are done. When cooked through, I splash light soy sauce all over, which causes the sauce to be fried in the hot melted fat. Quickly dish out, sprinkle lots of black pepper over before serving. It melts in the mouth and taste simply divine - very similar to Yunnan ham! Because it's such a fatty and rich meat, we can only eat around 3 to 4 pieces per person.

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