Hida Beef: The Wagyu That Charms Your Tastebuds Senseless
Japan has a global reputation for magnificently tender and high-quality domestic wagyu beef. There are many delicious varieties of wagyu, but Gifu prefecture’s local Hida beef from Takayama is considered one of the very best. Keep reading for the ins and outs of Takayama’s prized Hida beef, and what makes it so special; or head over to Gurunavi’s Hida Beef listings to find a restaurant near you!
What Sets Hida Beef Apart
The main differences of Hida beef from other wagyu can be found in its muscle and marbling. While all branded A5 varieties feature intense marbling, Hida beef is considered by many to be the ideal wagyu. That’s because the snowlike mesh of marbling not only permeates the tender steaks cut from the loin but is also woven throughout other cuts as well, including the shoulder (chuck), hindquarter (flank), and rear leg (round), which gives Hida beef its distinctive juiciness.
Japanese beef is rated on two factors: the amount of meat yielded is given a letter grade from A to C and quality is given a number grade from 1 to 5, which covers texture, color, and marbling. Based on these criteria, each head of cattle is rated from C1 to A5 grade. A5 is considered the finest Japanese beef with delicate marbling evenly distributed throughout. A5 wagyu is a special occasion ingredient that’s not typically sold in Japanese supermarkets, but can be purchased from high-end department stores or special ordered.
Read: A Guide to Wagyu
Where Are Hida Beef Cattle Raised
Hida beef cattle are raised on the clean air and pristine water of Gifu prefecture located under the shadow of Japan’s Northern Alps. Although the prefecture originally had several varieties of local cattle referred to as “Gifu beef,” the Hida beef brand wasn’t established until the 1980s when a cattle farmer brought a breeding bull named Yasufuku to Gifu from Hyogo prefecture, the birthplace of Kobe beef. Yasufuku is widely considered to be the patriarch of modern-day Hida beef cattle.
Hida Beef vs. Kobe Beef
While the Kobe beef brand is internationally recognized, Hida beef has become equally esteemed in Japan since winning the “Wagyu Olympics” in 2002. Many say that it’s the pure spring water of Gifu prefecture that contributes to the wonderful flavor of Hida beef. In addition, Gifu farmers are highly skilled at raising superior cattle that yield the very best quality cuts.
Type of Cow That’s Used and Why
Hida beef cattle are a breed of kuroge wagyu, or Japanese Black cattle. These cattle arrived in Japan around the 2nd century and were isolated from other cattle species until Japan opened its borders in the 1800s with the Meiji Restoration. The taboo against eating meat ended around this time, and Japanese cattle were crossbred with select European breeds to improve domestic stock. Because each prefecture was able to decide which European cattle to crossbreed with their local cattle, a number of unique wagyu breeds were developed.
How to Eat Hida Beef
There are many delicious ways to enjoy Hida beef either in Takayama’s restaurants or at home. Enjoy it in your favorite Japanese beef recipes for an even more sumptuous meal.
Read: 13 Japanese Beef Dishes
A grilled sirloin steak is an excellent way to enjoy Hida beef. This high-quality cut is extremely tender and juicy when cooked over a high-temperature flame and has a natural, unique sweetness from the meat’s intricate marbling.
Sukiyaki is a traditional home-cooked hot pot of thinly sliced beef simmered in a cast-iron pot with vegetables and tofu in a sweet soy sauce broth. The tender slices of beef are dipped in creamy raw scrambled egg before eating.
Yakiniku is a Japanese style of barbecue that evolved out of Korean barbecue. Thin bite-size cuts of meat are quickly grilled on a webbed grill over a flame and eaten with tare sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice, or both.
Wagyu korokke is a fried croquette made with a mashed potato and minced beef filling. The croquette is breaded in flaky panko crumbs before being deep-fried to a golden brown color. When made with Hida beef, it becomes even more of a sumptuous treat! Enjoy it with either soy or Worcestershire sauce.
Kushiyaki are skewers of grilled meat, seafood, and vegetables. Hida beef skewers are a popular street food in Gifu prefecture, especially during festivals where they’re sold at outdoor food stands. The beef is grilled and seasoned with salt and pepper or dipped in a soy sauce marinade.
Hida Beef Sushi
Sushi made with Hida beef rather than fish is a specialty of the Gifu town Hida-Takayama. Enjoy different varieties of beef sushi, such as Hida beef nigiri, sushi rice topped with Hida beef served raw or aburi style (broiled with a blowtorch). Hida beef gunkan, or “battleship sushi,” is presented with a strip of toasted nori seaweed wrapped around the sushi rice to form a small boat for the toppings, which include Hida beef, a decadent raw egg yolk, and sweet tare sauce for a sukiyaki-style sushi experience. Toro-sashi nigiri replicates the richness of o-toro (fatty tuna) sushi by selecting meltingly tender cuts of Hida beef with the deepest of marbling.
Experience Hida Beef in Japan with Gurunavi
For a beefy culinary experience that rivals even that of Kobe, be sure to try Gifu prefecture’s prized Hida beef while in Japan. Search Gurunavi’s recommended Hida beef restaurants for a list of locations near you. Itadakimasu!