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Yonezawa Beef, One of the Three Best Wagyu in Japan
If you’re a meat lover, chances are you’ve heard about Kobe beef. Often considered the best meat in the world, it is not the only succulent meat that can be found in Japan. Yonezawa’s beef is just as renowned among those knowledgeable about Japanese meat. Together, Kobe, Yonezawa and Matsusaka beef hold the title of the three best beef cuts in Japan.
These specially-selected oxen have been raised in the Yonezawa area for centuries. Consumption of Yonezawa beef became popular in the rest of Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912). Proud of its prime meat, the town hosts the Yonezawa Beef Festival every year on the first Friday of August. During a visit to Yonezawa you can best enjoy its reigional beef in form of sukiyaki or shabu-shabu, two popular Japanese hot-pot dishes.
Enjoy Yonezawa Beef in shabu-shabu
Shabu-shabu is a dish of Chinese origins that the Japanese adapted into their cuisine centuries ago. “Shabu-shabu” is an onomatopoeia that represents the sound made by the meat when it is immersed into the hot-pot’s simmering broth. In the manner of a fondue, a dish is placed on the table and heated by a small flame. Inside, a broth slowly simmer with fresh vegetables. The meat is prepared in thin slices as fine as prosciutto. It does not take more than a few seconds to cook the meat in the broth. After you’ve removed the meat, dip you beef in one of the containers of sauce, and discover the fine flavors of Yonezawa beef.
I had the chance to taste a Yonezawa beef shabu-shabu during my stay at Onogawa Onsen Kajikaso. Having already tasted Kobe beef, I can say that Yonezawa beef deserves a place alongside the world-famous product. The thin slices of beef, cooked in the shabu-shabu broth, melt in your mouth. The delicate taste of the meat goes perfectly with the flavors of the broth, and the sauces adds a punch of flavor without overpowering the exceptional taste of this beef. I was offered two different sauces during my meal, one with sesame and one with citrus fruits; one sweet, the other acidic. It was a fabulous way to discover Yonezawa beef’s versatility and depth of flavor.
Yonezawa Beef Yakiniku Style
While visiting Yonezawa, I took the opportunity to taste Yonezawa beef in another culinary context. “Yaki-niku” means “grilled meat” in Japanese. To make sure I had the highest-quality meat, I went straight to a butcher’s shop. The beef is grilled then generously seasoned with a slightly sweet sauce. The small bit-size pieces of meat are placed on top of rice.
Never had I experience a beef that so quickly turned to liquid! The cut of meat, much thicker than the shabu shabu variety, are filled with grooves of marbled fat that perfume the meat and contribute to its delicious, melt-in-your mouth texture. No doubt I served the best and most carefully-selected pieces of meat. The yakinku sauce mixes with the meat and rice, giving the whole dish an unforgettable flavor.
Bring Home Beef as a Souvenier
Unless you live in Japan and go home directly after a stay in Yonezawa, it is difficult to bring home raw meat. On the other hand, there are many cooked products made from Yonezawa beef that can be easily transported, even abroad. Dried meat or Japanese curry for example. At affordable costs you can let you friends and family experience this exceptional meat.
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