At last, after eight years, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore has finally lifted the ban on Japanese beef imports.
This means genuine, authentic Wagyu – the word means “Japan cow” – will now be available in Singapore!
When we talk about Wagyu beef we’re referring to several breeds of cattle with meat genetically predisposed to intense marbling, ie with a high percentage of fat.
Wagyu beef tends to be pricey because the cattle are fed a special diet which includes beer, sake or even wine. Examples of Wagyu beef include Kobe, Matsuzaka – these two places are known as the holy grail of Japanese steaks – Mishima, Ohmi, etc the most famous of which is Kobe beef. Kobe beef comes from the Wagyu breed; in order to earn the designation/appellation of “Kobe Beef”, the Wagyu beef must come from Kobe, Japan, and meet rigid production standards imposed in that prefecture. (AVA only allows meat from three authorized slaughter-houses – two in Kagoshi-ma prefecture and one in Gunma prefecture; meaning nothing from Kobe and Matsuzaka for now.)
Wagyu beef however, doesn’t just come from Japan. Wagyu beef comes from Australia and the US too; ironically, these are markets where diners do not appreciate steaks with high fat content.
Because it is so expensive there are many myths related to Waygu beef. One is that the cattle is being massaged. The truth is that’s done in Japan because they don’t have enough room to exercise the cattle in a normal paddock. Australian and American Wagyu cattle that get the oleaginous feed and a well designed exercise regime grade out just fine.
There’s another myth – that you could cut the beef with a butter knife. Now, that’s pure bullshit as far I’m concerned.
I’ve never had a good experience with Wagyu beef ever since I first tried it more than 25 years ago. I decided to see if I’ve changed my mind but recently at Brasserie Les Saveurs, I just couldn’t finish my Wagyu steak, which had way too much fat for my liking embedded in it. Not long ago, at The Atlantic Dining Room, after consuming a Wagyu steak I felt sick and one evening, at The Dunearn I gave away half the Wagyu steak I ordered. Recently after stuffing my face with a 300gm Wagyu steak for lunch at Angus Steak House, I felt nauseous.
Thank goodness Wagyu steaks are typically thinly cut – the higher the marbling score, the thinner the cut.
Those of us used to feasting on huge slabs of aged beef ala Peter Luger or Morton’s might not be able to fully appreciate the subtlety of Wagyu.