Food Hack: Kikufuji’s Gyu KushiMay 25, 2016
“Have you been to Kikufuji?”
“Yeah, I like their food.”
“So, you’ve tried their Gyu Kushi?”
“Gyu. Kushi. What?! You haven’t had it? You gotta go back and try it!”
This was the usual conversation between me and my friends (and usually the beginning of their love affair with these kushiyaki-style wagyu beef cubes). The first time I tried these grilled wagyu beef cubes, I immediately knew the carnivores of Manila were on to something. The dish seems simple enough, but what makes it a dish worthy of all the praises we’ve heard? The answer lies in the beef.
From your first bite of the Gyu Kushi, you’ll taste a world of difference between most locally available beef and this. Kikufuji uses frozen Saikoro wagyu beef, which can easily be purchased at the neighboring Japanese grocery in the Little Tokyo compound. (If you can’t find the time to visit Little Tokyo, try checking Japanese groceries near you, or try using tenderloin—unfortunately, we can’t promise that it’ll taste the same if you do.)
Let’s begin with a little foray into wagyu beef terminology.
“Saikoro” means cubed tenderloin beef—wagyu beef, in this case. A well-known Japanese beef, the term “wagyu” refers to heavily marbled beef that come from certain cattle breeds raised in specific areas of Japan, hence the names Kobe beef, Matsusaka beef, and so on.
To ensure high quality, the beef is evaluated on the yield grades A, B, and C. This is basically the percentage of usable beef. The quality grade, which ranges from 1 to 5, is based on the marbling, luster, firmness, and fat color. The highest grade given to wagyu beef is A5, so keep an eye out for that if you’re looking for the best.
Marbling refers to the fat found between the muscle fibers of the meat. High quality steaks have a high percentage of well-distributed, pure, and white fat, while a lean cut will have very little to no marbling. Loin cuts have a lot of marbling primarily because this area gets very little exercise in comparison to the other parts of the cow. A good amount of marbling in your beef does two things: one, it keeps the meat tender and moist, and two, it infuses the meat with flavor. The distinct beef flavor we know comes from the fat and not the meat itself. If you’re using an alternative to wagyu beef for this recipe, the lack of fat in local meats will definitely affect the dish’s flavor. Remember to monitor your cooking times, since beef with a low percentage of marbling can easily dry out.
Have you noticed anything different among the pieces of Gyu Kushi in the picture above? Compared to leaner meats, the wagyu has a pinker color and the pockets of fat will remain visible when cooked rare. Since wagyu beef usually has a high percentage of marbling, you can cook it until well-done without worrying about it drying out like its leaner counterparts. Despite having different levels of doneness, the meat retains its juiciness and tenderness but if you prefer a certain level of doneness, you may refer to our cheat sheet below.
Temperature: At least 425°
Cooking Time: 1 minute
Your beef will have a good sear on the surface while maintaining a slightly cool center. This is good for fatty steaks.
Cooking Time: 1 minute and 30 seconds
Your beef will have more of a crust on the outside while the inside is warmed through. It retains its pink color.
Cooking Time: 2 minutes
Your beef will be heated to the center, but retains its juiciness.
Cooking Time: 3 minutes
Your beef will be cooked thoroughly.
For this food hack, we took a different road. Instead of simply seasoning the beef, we marinated it in light soy sauce, olive oil, and seasoned the mixture to taste. We ended up with a Gyu Kushi that had more flavor and more umami from the soy sauce. The difference is faint, but elevates the Gyu Kushi to a whole new level.
Kikufuji’s Gyu Kushi Food Hack
Total Time: 20 minutes (10 min prep / 10 min cooking)
Yield: 8–10 servings
- 1-500g Saikoro Steak, pre-thawed
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, for seasoning
- Bamboo skewers
- Thaw out the meat 30 minutes before marinating.
- Prepare your marinade of light soy sauce and olive oil. Add the meat into the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Let the meat marinade for 10 minutes.
- Soak bamboo skewers in the water before using.
- Prepare the Gyu Kushi by threading four pieces of meat onto the bamboo skewers.
- Heat a grill pan until a small amount of smoke is visible.
- Sear the meat on each side depending on the preferred doneness.
- Serve with rice or a seaweed salad on the side.