Japan is a country that was relatively late when it comes to eating beef, due to Buddhist tradition which forbade eating meat. However, during the Meiji era the country adopted a more Western-style diet as it aimed to modernize. Today, Japan is one of the best places to enjoy an excellent steak thanks to the generations of artisan cattle farmers who have carefully raised regional varieties of Japanese domestic cattle, known as “wagyu”.
Fugu, Japanese pufferfish, is notorious for the highly toxic poison—tetrodotoxin—contained in its organs. Despite its deadly potential, fugu has been eaten in Japan for hundreds of years. As it was initially unknown how to properly prepare the fish, there were many fatalities from fugu consumption. For this reason, the eating of fugu was banned from around 1570 to 1870. These days fugu is commonly available in restaurants and supermarkets throughout Japan, but must be prepared by a licensed chef, and is prohibited to be prepared in the home—-even today, the Japanese royal family is forbidden from eating it.
With a long, snake-like appearance, eels may seem an unlikely delicacy–but several varieties of Japanese eel have been popular for hundreds of years. This includes unagi (freshwater eel), anago (saltwater eel) and hamo (conger eel). Unagi in particular is prized for its soft, fatty meat and bold, rich taste.
Kobe, located on Osaka Bay in western Japan, is a port city best known for its eponymous local brand of beef. Japanese beef, or wagyu, includes several breeds of cattle that have been domesticated from wild oxen, with the various regions of Japan specializing in their own local wagyu brands. Kobe beef, in particular, is world famous for its intense marbling. Rich and sweet without being greasy, the meat possesses a unique tenderness and melting texture that is second to none.
Noodles are an undeniably delectable staple the Japanese culinary repertoire. From temptingly thick udon noodles to tantalizingly thin buckwheat soba noodles, to wavy or long and straight ramen noodles, noodles come in every shape and texture in Japan and are enjoyed year-round. However, when temperature heats up and the days become languid with humidity, it is not a steaming bowl of noodles and hot soup, but rather a bowl of Japanese cold noodles, often chilled to perfection, that provides a refreshing respite from the sultry summer weather. Here are four essential Japanese noodle dishes for summer and some of the best places to enjoy them across the country.
Hida beef is a highly esteemed brand of kuroge wagyu beef from the Gifu area in central Japan. Black-haired Japanese cattle are raised to produce beef of the topmost quality, meeting stringent industry standards for marbling, color, texture, and aroma. Compared to other kuroge wagyu brands, Hida beef has thinner muscle fibers; furthermore, its exquisite marbling appears not only on steaks but also on flank, shoulder, and round cuts. This results in a light and tender beef that, lacking the heaviness of many other meats, possesses instead a smooth and sweet flavor. A fine marble coating also protects the meat when stewing, resulting in only the juiciest and most tender cuts.
From top-notch farms to artisanal kitchens and into the waiting mouths of hungry patrons, Japan’s elite offering—premium kuroge wagyu Japanese beef—is fast taking its well-deserved place among Western high-end beef standards such as filet mignon and veal. While internationally recognized Kobe beef is one of the most highly regarded, flavorful and least easy to obtain outside of Japan, it is by no means the only kind Japan has to offer. Read on to discover the world of kuroge wagyu beef, and learn why these succulent cuts should be at the top of your list when deciding where to dine in Japan.