Monday, March 24, 2008

Of Kobe Beef & Abalone

Hokkaido, Japan

Being an incorrigible carnivore and a devout beef-eater, I just had to try the famed Kobe beef when it was offered on the menu of a restaurant in Hokkaido, Japan. And it's the original JAPANESE Kobe beef, not the wagyu-versions from Australia or USA that you'll usually find in restaurants all around the world, outside of Japan.

My knowledge of Kobe beef is rather superficial and my craving for the beef does stem from all that press about Kobe beef being the top-grade beef, regarded for its tender, highly marbled meat. Said marbled meat comes from some highly pampered cattle that roam the free ranges of Japan and feast on organic goodies such as barley, corn, wheat and beer (!) and they also receive regular stress-relieving massages, thus keeping the highly prized cattle nicely relaxed and retaining all its delicious, fatty, marbled flesh.

But press or no press, the Kobe beef does in fact, live up to all its hype! Eating the Kobe beef as slabs of grilled steak is quite possibly the best way to appreciate its flavour and texture. I've tried Kobe beef shabu shabu in Tokyo before and it just seems like such a bland way to taste the meat because if you love your beef, like I do, you'll wanna sink your teeth into substantial chunks of it and savour the juicy, beefy goodness of it all! Yum!

After savouring the Kobe beef, my curiosity (and greed) is piqued for the Matsuzaka and Mishima beef - two other highly lauded varieties that the Japanese regard to be even better than the Kobe beef (and possibly, even pricier no doubt)!

Another delicacy that I got to sample while in Hokkaido is the shellfish, abalone. Yet another pricey connoisseur food, though I am not quite sure if Japan's famed for its abalones. That said, the abalone we tried was DEEE-LI-CIOUS! Just simply grilled with butter, it was lip-smackingly good.

Below you'll find pictures of the abalones in their raw, cooking and cooked states. The abalones were actually writhing while being cooked alive. I'm just glad that abalones can't scream or it would have been quite an uncomfortable sight. On that note, the dining scene in Japan ain't exactly PETA-friendly. It's contentious I suppose, but sometimes you can't have your meat and eat it. And I'm all for eating!;p

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