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Japan

Umayarou(馬野郎): a horse meat speciality restaurant in Kyoto

On my last trip to Kyoto I went to a horse meat speciality restaurant called Umayarou.

Umayarou is near Kiyomachi-dori; a popular street full of restaurants, bars and clubs. The restaurant name: 馬野郎 (うまやろう / Umayarou) starts with the kanji 馬, which means horse, this makes it easy to spot it as a horse meat specialist.

Horsemeat is not that common in Japan, but I have seen it from time to time. I’ve found it served both raw; as sashimi, and cooked.

When writing about horse as a delicacy. I think it’s important to address the ethics of eating animal products. I realise that eating horse is taboo in some countries/cultures.

I believe in eating animal products only sparingly. I tend to eat them only two to three times a week. When I do eat animal products I try to make sure they come from a high quality source. By that, I mean they had a good quality of life and they had good quality foodstuff.

Spending part of my childhood near farms, and doing volountary work on nature reserves, I learned that all animals have strong personalities; cows, pigs, chickens included. I don’t feel that it makes sense that we have a specific emotional attachment to only some species.

Eating at Umayarou

Umayarou is a fairly traditional Izakaya (pub) / Yakiniku (barbecue) style restaurant. It was packed when we were there. The vibe was really good. They had the usual special offers on alocohol such as all you can drink for a limited time. This is very common in Japan.

The menu was split into a section of appetisers / sides / starters and then a section with the meat available for barbecue / grilling.

Sashimi

I started with a mixed selection of horse sashimi.

Barbecue / Yakiniku

After that I had barbecue. At the start of this section of the menu they include a map of all the different cuts of meat they serve.

This is one of those occasions where it really helps to speak Japanese.

Even though I speak some Japanese, I never thought to study anatomical terms for horses! Although some of the words are common such as もも; thigh, and タン; tongue. For the rest, luckily I had a friend with me to help pick.

This is how the meat is served. I like the way they labelled everything.

It’s then a simple matter of putting cooking on the grill plate to your own preference. The waitress helpfully did a small demo with the first peice.

This is first time I used a ‘dome’ shaped yakiniku grill. It keeps the meat relatively free of oil.

As for the taste of horse. It’s not that strong. It’s not gamey like venison or fowl. To my taste the enjoyment comes from the quality and texture of the meat. It’s quite different from beef. Perhaps it is a little sweeter.

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