Rarely exported Japanese Kobe beef made its way to Hong Kong dining tables Friday as supermarkets and high-end restaurants started selling the previously exclusive Japanese culinary delicacy.
Hong Kong is only the second foreign market after the nearby Chinese territory of Macau to receive exports of officially certified Kobe beef, the industry's marketing association said.
"The response has been overwhelming -- most of our stock has been sold out in a few hours," Taste supermarkets spokeswoman Athena Lee told AFP.
Kobe beef comes from Tajima-gyu cows that have been pure-bred since the 17th century in the hilly Hyogo prefecture of Japan.
The meat is renowned for its buttery taste and its marble-like texture, made up of an even mix of meat and fat.
It is often said the cows receive massages and listen to soothing music to increase their appetites, but the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association says such practices are not widespread.
Though there is heavy worldwide demand for the delicacy, it was not officially exported until February 2 this year when the first shipments arrived in Macau.
Almost 1,500 kilograms (3,210 pounds) of Kobe beef arrived in Hong Kong from Osaka by air on July 18, and went on sale Friday at a 30 percent discount at around HK$88-HK$327 ($11.3-$42) per 100 grams.
Nobu InterContinental Hong Kong is claiming to be the first restaurant to serve Kobe beef in the former British colony, which has earned a reputation as one of Asia's main food and wine hubs.
Executive chef Erik Idos said the meat will be offered as a five-course Kobe beef set with beef sashimi and sushi, priced at HK$1,688.
Four out of five of the courses will feature the tenderloin, striploin and the ribeye parts of the Kobe cow.
"They'll love it, because Hong Kong people love the soft texture of beef that melts in your mouth," the American chef told AFP.
"This has all of it, it has the beef taste, it has the fat, it has the texture."
He said Japan was wise to open up the Kobe beef business to the world.
"All that exporting helps their business because Japan is exporting one of the hardest ingredients you can get," he said.
Idos had no special advice for people lucky enough to snap up Hong Kong's first cuts of authentic Kobe beef, saying only that they shouldn't undercook it to make sure the fat melts in the mouth.
"It's very simple to cook," he added, as he grilled a lightly seasoned cube of beef, then cut it into fine, marbled slices and served it with garlic, basil and ponzu sauce.