The steaks : enjoyed from Texas to Tokyo, from Sydney to Seoul and from Buenos Aires to Belgium.
If there’s one dish you can rely on finding on a restaurant menu throughout much of the world, it’s the simple beef steak.
Its popularity across all of Europe, Australia, both American continents, and even some Asian countries is infallible, and you will find that even most of the humblest local eateries to the glamorous big name, big city restaurants serve steak in some form.
Elsewhere in the world, there are still plenty of restaurants where you can order a great steak, even if it’s not part of the local cuisine. Many places have warmly welcomed the steak restaurant into their restaurant scene. This is because it’s one of the simplest dishes in the world, but also one of the most delicious. Few dishes are so nearly universally revered.
That said, you’ll find steak cooked in a variety of ways, from pan-fried to barbecue. The length of cooking is a cultural or personal preference, too; some prefer it barely cooked, other prefer it well-done. As for side dishes, condiments, garnishes and sauces, that’ll depend on where you are in the world as well.
The cuts of beef often vary also. But whichever way this dish is prepared and served, all chefs prepare it with one thing in common: to celebrate the inherently delicious flavor and sublime texture of the steak.
What Makes a Great Steak?
Despite the apparent simplicity of the dish, a steak is notoriously difficult to cook well. Utmost respect to the meat must be given by the chef, who must use the cut, store, prepare, season and cook it precisely right.
Steak is one of those things in life where you get what you pay for: a cheap supermarket steak cannot begin to even compare to the highest quality steak by the most experienced steak chefs. At its best, steak can be the meal of a lifetime.
On your travels around the world, it’s always worth seeking out a great steak. Here are 8 countries where you will find some of the world’s most dedicated steak eaters, and be served some of the most delicious steak to ever pass your lips.
In the USA, steak is king of the menu. All over the country, from New York to New Orleans, you’ll find grand halls built to worship the finest beef: the great American steakhouse.
In a classic American steakhouse, you will find big, generous portions of buttery, juicy steak in a variety of cuts. Favorite cuts include filet mignon, New York strip steak and entrecote.
The dry-aged steak will be the centerpiece of your meal; so expect well-seasoned, simply prepared, but unfussy and utterly delicious steak. If you have the appetite, you’ll enjoy fries and maybe a few green beans alongside the main event.
Japan is the home of wagyu steak, one of the world’s most highly regarded beef steaks. Wagyu eaten in Japan will have come from cattle that has been raised under a strict set of criteria. These criteria promote a particularly nutritious diet.
Typically, wagyu is slightly higher in fat content than many Western steaks, but this is one of the main reasons its flavor is so popular. The fat is evenly marbled throughout the meat. As the steak cooks, this marbling melts into the meat producing a wonderfully succulent finished steak.
Producing wagyu beef is taken very seriously; it is often said that farmers regularly massage their cattle and feed them beer to improve the flavor of the meat. The pinnacle of all wagyu steaks is the kobe, the crème-de-la-crème of the steak world. A steak can only be called kobe if it meets seven strict criteria, most important of which is its marbling score.
In Japan, you often find restaurants flavor their steak with garlic and soy, which adds a savory punch to the flavor. A popular condiment is grated daikon radish. This has a clean, fresh flavor which works beautifully with the richness of the steak.
Argentines’ love for beef is no secret. It is estimated that the average Argentine eats more than two pounds of beef a week; across the planet, only their neighbors, the Uruguayans, eat more beef. This makes it a great place to get a steak.
Argentines regularly head to their local parilla (steakhouse) with family and friends to devour lomo (filet mignon), entraña (skirt steak), and a multitude of other cuts.
One of the secrets of the parilla is the way the steak is cooked. Beef is barbecued in a brick-built asado grill. The steak is cooked over wood or charcoal briquettes, and the walls of the asado retain heat so well that the steak can be cooked more slowly away from the flame. The resulting flavor is deliciously smoky.
In Argentina, the flavor of the steak does the talking so you won’t typically find many seasonings or many sauces served alongside.
French cuisine is celebrated around the world for the respectful, delicate way food is prepared to impart the greatest flavor. Steak is also treated in this way, with the utmost respect to the cut of meat. For this reason, many French people typically only lightly cook their steak as they believe this preserves the most flavor.
In a local restaurant, you will often hear people asking for their steak cooked ‘bleu’ (translation: blue), which comes as lightly cooked as possible, seared on the outside and very bloody on the inside. Although a chef will prepare a steak as well-done as you like it, there is no doubt they would prefer to serve it as rare as possible.
The French often enjoy a sauce over their steak. A popular example is sauce béarnaise, which is made with butter, white wine vinegar, shallots and tarragon.
Churrasco is the Portuguese name given to the Brazilian style of barbecuing meat; lean cuts of steak seasoned generously with salt and cooked on skewers over charcoal.
Churrasco is how many Brazilian people choose to spend their Sundays; enjoying great food with their beloved family and friends. It’s a way of life. Alongside the steak, you’ll find a variety of other meats barbecued the same way. Chimichurri sauce is served, too; it’s made with parsley, garlic, oil and a perhaps a little chili pepper.
It’s widely agreed that Australia produces some of the best steak cuts on the planet. This is, in part, due to the optimal climate and environment for raising cattle on a grass-fed diet.
The cattle’s varied pastoral diet feeds into the flavor of the meat, which can be described as delicate and herby. Welfare and nutritional standards are also high, which means great quality steaks that are ethically produced. Eat steak in Australia and you’ll find it served simply to allow the flavor of the meat to shine. Australian cuisine is light and fresh, so on the side you will often find a zingy salad, tangy slaw or cooked greens.
Italians love great food, so it’s no surprise that steak is a favorite dish here, too.
After enjoying appetizers and a pasta entrée, you might enjoy a beautiful steak as your second course. The most popular way of serving it is as Bistecca alla fiorentina, or Florentine steak. This is a Porterhouse steak grilled over a wood fire.
It is generally served rare, alongside typical Mediterranean side dishes such as rosemary-infused roast potatoes, a green salad or hearty cannelloni beans.
Another country with a big barbecue scene is South Korea.
Here, friends and family come together and gather around an open tabletop grill. Each guest grills their own bite-size pieces of meat one at a time, which they enjoy before grilling more. This barbecue marathon can last several hours, over which time there will be lots of laughter and merriment.
Minutely thin pieces of steak are a favorite barbecue meat. Dipping sauces are served alongside, often made from combinations of sugar, soy, ginger, garlic, hot pepper, and other spices. You may choose to wrap your meat in lettuce leaves and spice it up with fresh sliced fresh green chilies, a spicy sauce and sliced fresh garlic. Famous Korean kimchi can also accompany the barbecued meat.
As for the steak itself, brisket is a popular cut. Although this cut is full of beefy flavor, it needs to be tenderized before cooking. Korean barbecue cooks do this in a marinade that includes fruit, often using Asian pears. Enzymes in the fruit tenderize the beef beautifully and add a sweet flavor to the meat.
Next time you’re away from home, seek out a great steak. It may well be the highlight of your trip, wherever your travels may take you.
Franck Mottais is the Operations Manager at Tourism Development & Investment Company or TDIC. With a true passion for food and beverage operations, Franck’s personal goal is to consistently deliver the highest quality of guest service and effectively run distinguished establishments such as KOI Restaurant & Lounge and Boa Steakhouse in Abu Dhabi.