[TOKYO] Cooking lunch – Kuroge-Wagyu Beef (黒毛和牛)

melon cream buns

Dear Food Diary:
Woke up early on my second day here, partly due to jet lagged but mostly excited about Game 7 of the NBA finals.

Walked StalkerBoy to the Akihabara Station and got a Melon Bun at Vie de France Bakery. Think sweet melon in fluffy form, cream filling and pieces of fresh fruit. The bun was incredibly light and refreshing. I’ve never described a bun as refreshing, but it was exactly that. So unique, the fruity aroma made me smile, though after the game, my Spurs made me cry.

After the heartbreaking loss of the Spurs, I went to a local market to pick up some daily essentials, but once I saw the beautifully marbled Kuroge-Wagyu Beef (黒毛和牛 cattle with black hair) I just couldn’t resist. Ecstatically changed my plans for day and cooked lunch at home instead. Thank goodness for our service apartment/hotel with full kitchen.

grocery shopping in akihabara
Under a bridge, this was our closest supermarket. I think the sign means open 24 hours.

fresh edamame on steam - edamame plant
Edamame still on the stem! Root and all, how fresh is that!? I’ve never seen an edamame plant, because in the states we get them frozen (of course *rolling eyes*). Though I’ve bought some at the local farmer’s market on Wednesdays by the UN (hefty price tag compared to the pre-packaged ones). The bunch here cost about $5, which isn’t too bad.

I was wondering if the leafs were edible, you know, like sweet potato or beet leafs, but the locals laughed at me. I don’t see why not, so maybe I’ll give it a stir with some garlic one of these days.


grocery shopping in tokyo - black hair beef, shishito peppers and asian barbecue sauce
Kuroge-Wagyu (黒毛和牛 cattle with black hair) according to the label this is local and used for Japanese BBQ. See what i mean about how irresistible it looked? That nice marble. And it comes with a piece of beef fat to cook it in and we all know fat is flava’. 1o slices for almost ($10).

Usually, these would be seared on a table BBQ or a piece of hot stone. Searing only takes a few seconds on each side. I only had a pan at the apartment, but was determined to make the best of it. Got a sweet-spicy sauce and some shishito peppers too.

Here’s some info on Japan Wagyu from Wikipedia:

Because of Japan’s rugged terrain and isolated areas, different breeding and feeding techniques were used such as massaging or adding beer or sake to their feeding regimen. It is suggested that this was done to aid in digestion and induce hunger during humid seasons, but it appears to have no effect on the meat’s flavor. Massaging may have been introduced to prevent muscle cramping on small farms in Japan where the animals did not have sufficient room to use their muscles.

There are four breeds of wagyu: Japanese Black (黒毛和種 Kuroge washu), Japanese Brown (赤毛和種 Akage Washu), Japanese Polled (無角和種 Mukaku Washu), and Japanese Shorthorn (日本短角和種 Nihon Tankaku Washu).

Japanese Black makes up 90% of all fattened cattle in Japan. Strains of Japanese Black include Tottori, Tajima, Shimane and Okayama. Japanese Brown, also known as Japanese Red is the other main breed; strains include Kochi and Kumamoto. Japanese Shorthorn makes up less than one percent of all cattle in Japan.


cooking lunch in tokyo - searing black hair beef with its own fat
For the sake of this pic I left the piece of beef fat in the pan.

SEARING: After letting the pan get really hot, I simply rubbed the fat around and gently let the beef sear for a few seconds on each side, allowing it to get some color and a little chard while absorbing extra flavor. No sauce was needed, just a little bit of salt.

cooking lunch in tokyo - seared black hair marbled beef
And voila! Laced fat all around. I wouldn’t say it completely melt in my mouth, but it was really juicy and tender. A splash of flavor aka fat while the jaw did very minimal work. I liked that it has a slight chew to it, just the way I think beef should be. Intense beef flavor (that’s a compliment) and a grassy finish. Loved the little chard around the edges. This isn’t even the best beef in Japan! Imagine that.

With or without dipping in the sweet/spicy sauce, this was outstanding. At $1 a piece, it was well worth it.

The jaded U.S supermarket shopper in me couldn’t believe this kind of quality was found at a local grocery store. You really don’t need quantity when you have something this superb for everyday consumption. Maybe that’s why all the locals are so darn skinny.

I could have easily shared this with StalkerBoy over some rice and a few extra sides. It’s flavorful and satisfying enough that a few pieces would do. But since he was at work, I had the tough job of finishing it. To my defense, I did cut out the carb.


cooking lunch in tokyo - shishito peppers
After searing the beef, I used the same pan and just tossed these shishito peppers into the fat. A couple drops of soy sauce and it was ready. Fragrant and bright with a caramelized exterior. These shishito peppers had an extra kick! Some were hot like mini jalepenos compared to the mild ones I get at the Farmer’s Market in NYC. I had to drink some soy milk to help cool my tongue!


cooking lunch in tokyo - seared black hair beef and shishito
Lunch was served with iced green tea, the bottled version comes with no sugar and has a minerally finish. It was perfect with my lunch. Oh and the shiso leafs are sold by the pack, 6 bunches for like $3. Which is great, because they can be used on a variety of dishes, adding that distinct bright japanese minty fragrance.

After a yummy lunch, it was nap time, still getting over this jet lag.


P.S. Dinner was at Sushi Bar Yasuda. The sushi chef that originally opened Sushi Yasuda NYC  back in 1999 (my favorite sushi place in the Big Apple. The experience is closest to Japan). And though he no longer has any ties to the much praised restaurant, his name still remains (legal contract) as a seal of authenticity.


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