Every cuisine of the world today has not only its own traditional dishes, ways of preparing them, not only uses certain types of products depending on natural resources and seasons. Each nation also uses its own kitchen utensils: pots, ladle spoons, plates, etc., but a cook will never be able to do without knives when cooking, no matter how they look or what they are called.
Japanese traditional cuisine, which developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, also has its own characteristics, including a certain set of cutting tools used for different functions and dishes. After all, kitchen knives are required, as before from a katana sword, two properties - sharpness and one hundred percent reliability.
Features of kitchen knives in Japan
Cutlery, like the kitchen tools used in restaurants in Japan, are somewhat different from their counterparts in European cuisine. The Japanese chef's knife is a thin thing both in direct and infiguratively. Their blades are actually thinner and heavier.
Sharpening is only on one side of the blade (right-handed only!), which is usually thinner and narrower than its counterpart in European cuisine, although double-edged Japanese tools are exported. A professional Japanese chef's knife is sharpened only on a special wet stone.
Their features are associated with the use of knives for cooking a large number of specific Japanese fish and seafood dishes, the use of cheese and sauces of a special consistency. To cut simply transparent slices for sushi and sashimi, for a beautiful non-buttered cut, the surface of these cutlery must be very specific.
In addition, the function of the knife used will necessarily depend on the shape and size of the blade, and, of course, on the skills and preferences of the cook when working with it.
Functionality (where applicable)
The functions of Japanese cutting and chopping tools can be represented as follows:
- chef (chef), rather large, wide and heavy, universal;
- Japanese santoku chef's knife, smaller and lighter, versatile;
- for cutting fish (use deba), with a wide blade, easy to handle fish bones;
- boning, crescent-shaped, for fish, poultry and meat, narrow and long;
- for cutting;
- slicers (for thin slices);
- for sushi and sashimi (yanagiba - queen of knives), special slicer, thin to transparent pieces;
- for making sashimi (sashimi bote), long andnarrow knives;
- for cutting vegetables (nakiri), in the form of a hatchet, but narrow and very, very sharp;
- for breakfast and tomatoes;
- for peeling fruits and vegetables;
- for bread, always with cloves, usually long, used for slicing large fruits (pineapples, watermelons, melons);
- for steak;
- for processing crabs (ram kir);
- for slicing octopus (takobiki), narrow and thin;
- for cutting fugu fish (fugubi), the longest and thinnest knife;
- for oysters, specific shape and thickness, for shell opening and cutting;
- for cheese (with two handles);
- kitchen hatchets for meat;
- kitchen hatchets for poultry;
- Pchaki knives.
The longest knife (oroshi bote) has a length of up to two meters, used for cutting very large fish. There are also Japanese kasumi chef's knives. And this is not a complete list of cutting tools.
By functionality, Japanese kitchen knives are divided into 200 types, in addition, there are more than 600 additional ones for local dishes. For comparison, there are only 20 types in Europe.
Interestingly, the Japanese have developed only two cutting assistants for home cooking:
- santoku (women love it for its versatility),
- nakiri for very thin and beautiful cutting of vegetables.
General rules for choosing a knife
How to choose the right knife is very interestingly described in the third part of the book by Douglas Adams "The Hitchhiker's Guide togalaxy." To make the hand less tired, lighter, thinner and more even cut pieces are needed:
- good sharpening,
- Specific blade length, width and thickness,
- a certain weight and the correct location of the center of gravity of the cutting tool.
These requirements are emphasized by all professional chefs.
How big should the knife be
The size of professional Japanese kitchen knives is usually smaller than that of European ones: they are shorter and narrower. However, their weight is not less, but more than that of European ones similar in function. This is due to the difference in the materials used and the difference in the way these cutlery is used. European chefs usually cut smoothly, without lifting the knife from the cutting board. Japanese chefs have slightly different movements, so the cutters are shorter.
The thickness of the blade for Europeans is usually about two millimeters, for Japanese - one and a half millimeters.
What should a knife be made of
Kitchen cutting tools are usually steel. The latest stone (ceramic), composite, titanium and other knives in Japanese restaurants are not used either as kitchen or dining knives. Although the main manufacturer of ceramic tools is Japan. In Russia, plastic Chinese fakes are often sold under the guise of ceramic knives.
The composition of steel can be divided into two large types: carbon steel with a high carbon content of 1.0-1.5% and low carbon steel with a carbon content of 0.5-0.6%.
In JapaneseIn restaurants, cutting tools made of high carbon steel are common. The best Japanese chef's knife made of Damascus steel. They are harder, sharper, but also more fragile. Stay sharp longer. They are sharpened only on a wet stone. This is a special stone. It is designed to be sharpened in water. According to reviews, professional chefs in Japan do not use other methods. Such knives quickly rust, covered with a coating of oxide films. But it's not scary. With prolonged use, plaque prevents the transfer of the smell of a knife to food. Alloy steel tools are free of plaque. They look fresh, smells never transfer.
In European cuisine, stainless steel knives are considered the best, because they need to be sharpened less often, they are more flexible (and therefore more durable). Sharpening of such tools can be carried out in a variety of ways. Used in European restaurants and tools made of alloy steels. Doped with chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, etc.
They have slightly worse characteristics compared to Damascus steel: they get dull more often, fail and require replacement. But such a knife can be easily touched up and sharpened under normal conditions.
Professional chefs of any kitchen tend to have their own set of favorite cutting assistants that they "shake" over, not letting anyone use it. And they usually sharpen their tools themselves.
Handle is an important part for a professional
Kitchen knife handles have traditionally been wood. Specially processed, it did not allowslip hand, but did not injure her. The tree of valuable species (ebony, red) gave the knife a special value in the eyes of Japanese chefs and collectors. But the shape of the handle is much more important: it should be flat, have an ellipse shape (European cuisine) or a polyhedron (Japanese cuisine) in section.
Currently, various types of wood, various plastics, metal are used for the production of kitchen knives.
Shape and balance
The shape of kitchen knives in Japan is such that moisture and particles of the product processed by them almost do not fall on the junction of the blade and handle. It is much more hygienic and more convenient when washing tools.
Balancing a knife - creating its center of gravity in a certain place. The usual balancing is its location in the middle of the length of the knife. If the cutting tool is used by a professional, i.e. for constant specific work on cutting, cutting, deboning, the center of gravity for the convenience of work should be shifted towards the blade or handle and be at different points, depending on the functional value of the operations carried out by him. Only then can we talk about perfect balance, which gives pleasure to working with such a cutting tool.
A professional knife must be well balanced between blade and handle. This balancing act is a true art. Real masters and their works are valued by connoisseurs as musical instruments Amanti, Stradivari, Guarneri.
Sharpening: problems and tools
Any hostess knows howthe sharpening of the cutting tool is important. In Japan, there is even a special term for the interval between sharpening - "kirinaka". The Japanese do it in a completely different way. Different sharpening angle, different angles of descents, descents themselves, etc. This is called "knife geometry". And it is very important to withstand it for the correct operation of the tool. Although in Japanese and European cuisine these "geometries" are very different.
Advice for beginner cooks
When working with a knife, it is important:
- carefully wash boards and all tools after work;
- Japanese chef's knife for what it is intended for, and for this purpose;
- hold the device while cutting like this: three fingers on the handle, one on the blade;
- hold the knife while cutting (potato eyes, for example) with two fingers;
- brush cuts off cutting boards with the butt of a knife, not the blade;
- after use, the device must be washed, dried and be sure to hide in place;
- purchase quality cutting tools.
Which knife to choose
The best Japanese kitchen knives are produced by companies:
- Global - Claim high quality steel;
- Kanetsugu - position themselves as the keepers of Japanese traditions;
- Masahiro - claim that their tools are the most ancient knives of the Land of the Rising Sun.
Buying a cutting tool of any Japanese master, even a little-known one, you get a real work of art.
You can, of course, make a Japanese chef's santoku knife with your own hands, withetching on the blade, as suggested in one of the master classes on Youtube, but it is unlikely that you will immediately get something worthwhile.