The Japanese kitchen can be a daunting place, especially when it comes to discerning what is what from the selection of tools within. Simply choosing a suitable knife for the task at hand can be a challenging feet, even for the most hardened and experienced Western chef.
Japanese knives come is all sorts of shapes and sizes; amongst these numerous bladed instruments you will be able to find “cleavers to split large pieces of meat… straight-bladed choppers for breaking light bones” and “a battery of knives for chopping peeling, and paring”1. And that is just to mention a few.
Despite the intimidating array of knives that are available to you, there are three Japanese knives that will do almost all the work needed in the kitchen.
DEBA BOUCHOU: A versatile knife used for fillet fish, cutting meat and poultry, and breaking light bones. A handy knife to have around the home.
YANAGI BA: Long bladed knife sharpened one side that is designed for slicing fish. A must have for all lovers of Sushi and Sashimi.
USUBA: Flat edged professional vegetable knife sharpened on one side with an extremely thin blade that allows for cutting through vegetables without cracking them. This is the knife you are likely to use the most in the kitchen.
It is interesting to note that these precision whetted high carbon stainless steel blades – that are now used in kitchens across the world – employ the same advanced forging techniques developed and passed on by sword-makers from the epochal era of the Samurai warrior. So the next time you are watching a stoic Samurai warrior on the big screen, don’t forget to enjoy the edifying experience, sitting back in the knowledge that the same high grade of carbon steel used to forge the warrior’s deadly blade is the same steel used to manufacture the vegetable knife you use (notably more benignly) to slice and dice your tofu.