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Apr 19, 2023

FOOD NEWSSo Fresh but Not Lean: Thin-sliced Wagyu Beef Culture

Wagyu has become commonplace, and many diners have now tried a Wagyu steak or “Wagyu burger.” (Check your sources for the real deal.) Yet in Japan, Wagyu is popular many other ways – including sliced paper thin.

Apr 19, 2023

A banquet in the first few bites

How much Wagyu can you really eat before you’re overdosed on its supreme fatty goodness? Not an incredible amount, it turns out – six ounces of A5 would give a seasoned carnivore the meat sweats. 

Japanese culinary tradition has conjured a number of amazing ways to enjoy meat, including world-class slow braises and demi glace sauces, deep-fried tonkatsu using both beef and pork and jaw-dropping chicken that reinvents ways to enjoy the bird. (Try tori sashi – worth researching, for the curious, and brave.) 

Because it’s so rich, from a Japanese perspective, one great way to enjoy Wagyu is to cut it thin, and savor each bite to the fullest.

Thin to win: Shabu-shabu and other dishes 

The marbling of Wagyu demands different preparation ideas. In the traditional Japanese dish shabu-shabu, slicing Wagyu paper-thin exposes more of the fat, melting away a larger portion due to surface area exposure to the boiling water it’s cooked in. Wagyu contains high concentrations of oleic acid, which helps the fat melt at 35° C (95° F).

This ultra-quick method of cooking (five seconds or less) also means each bite is hot and delicious, while adding amazing flavor to the soup it’s enjoyed with. Sukiyaki is similar, and adding raw egg and sweetened soy sauce to the equation is a truly decadent Japanese flavor bomb that must be tasted to be understood. Wagyu carpaccio sliced thin and seared or served raw is an absolute show-stopper with accoutrement like basil or dill, pecorino, fried garlic, olive oil, sea salt and pink peppercorns.

Global popularity and new possibilities

Wagyu itself more or less birthed the preparation methods above, meaning the thin-sliced craze only started in Japan 100+ years ago, too. Wagyu professionals have discovered that shabu-shabu and sukiyaki are gaining popularity worldwide, and are now working hard to produce even more Wagyu beef for export to the US, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Europe.

In an ideal world, we want Wagyu to be so popular that everyone outside of Japan knows that it’s Japanese beef from almost every prefecture, raised with respect and devoted rearing methods. For now, the next time you acquire a cut, try asking your local butcher to slice it paper thin on a deli slicer. The added bang for your buck, and the myriad culinary possibilities, should have you inspired to keep coming back for more.