Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ishigaki Beef  石垣牛

Not many people know about Ishigaki beef even in Tokyo. Since Ishigaki Island is located 1,952km from Tokyo, they are very far from major transportation hubs, it is not easy to get unfrozen Ishigaki beef in Tokyo. In addition to their distribution difficulty the production is very limited. Ishigaki cattle grower told me that over 80% of their calves are exported to other part of Japan and less than 20% stay in Ishigaki to mature to become Ishigaki Beef.


Ishigaki beef is one of a Wagyu "brand". There is about 139 Wagyu variety across Japan (concentrated in southern Japan). Wagyu means Japanese beef. Wa=Japan and Gyu=beef Definition of Wagyu is : A cow those of which born and raised in Japan. Wagyu have to come from Wagyu cow with 100% Wagyu parents and have to be grown in Japan.

Most important and known characteristic of Wagyu is it's marblization of fat throughout the meat. Most famous Wagyu brands are Kobe and Matsuzaka. Kobe and Matsuzaka beef grower purchase Ishigaki calves and raise them to become Kobe or Matsuzaka beef.

It is extremely difficult to purchase Wagyu in the US but I found a place on the web that sells Wagyu. They have good information on Wagyu in English as well. ( ).

I am embarrassed to say I didn't care much about differences between Wagyu brands before I first tasted Ishigaki beef. I was shocked how flavorful and different Ishigaki beef were. It tasted very juicy but the fat didn't linger in my mouth like other Wagyu usually did.

I think the biggest diffrence between other Wagyu and Ishigaki beef is that it has nice marblization of fat yet the fat melts at lower temperature hens has cleaner finish in the mouth. Also Ishigaki beef is not just tender but has nice body.

I had a great Teppan yaki Ishigaki beef staek at ANA hotel Ishigaki and amazing Yakiniku at Yamamoto in downtown Ishigaki. Reservations are needed for both of the restaurants.

Yainiku at Yamato やまもと

I think best way to enjoy good quality beef is to simply grill it over charcoal fire. At Yakiniku restaurants in Japan, you cook your own meat at your table. It is great that you can control and experiment how much you want to cook the meat. I believe each meat taste best at different temperature and different doneness.

Yamato uses Shichirin (traditional Japanese charcoal grill ) for cooking.

Their sashimi was amazing!!! I cannot express how good it was.
Yes it is sashimi - that means I ate it raw. Usually, I am not a big fan of eating beef raw, but Ishigaki meat had no "beefy animal smell" and was sweet and clean tasting. Very delicate flavor. I really enjoyed eating it...

Great beef quality. Yakishabu was very nice too. Thinly sliced beef need to be cooked very briefly. Great with thinly sliced onions.

Left side is Jyo (superior) Rosu and right is regular rosu. They were so tasty cooked medium rare. I liked Jyorosu better because it had taster juice flavor when I chewed it.

Happy cows come from Ishigaki Island. Great air, great water, and great weather all year around, they are healthy and stress free.

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