Frequently asked about knife work in the kitchen, many home chefs dream of buying a Japanese knife, but so they know what they are getting into? The kitchen knife is a big word, it’s similar to a fast car, and fast doesn’t always represent performance, it represents speed and speed is one part of a fast car.
A knife in Japan comes in varying shapes and sizes and and grades of steel. So, if you choose a knife there are two questions to ask yourself, price and use. Then you need to ask yourself why do I need a Japanese knife and if the answer is because I don’t have one, or I love the look, forget it. The prerequisite is kitchen knowing why you need it, and if you own it care and organisation are key.
And if you have an understanding of what it takes to safely use a Japanese knife, then purchase one otherwise just admire them. A Japanese knife requires organisation, and this means having it religiously placed in a safe and horizontal position, and never otherwise. These blades are razor sharp and discipline and know-how are critical otherwise you risk hurting yourself or someone else.
If you’ve seen any sushi chef, they use their knife and after each cut the knife is wiped and placed back to its original position. And the sushi chef has immaculate technique, control, finger position and angle of control. The same way a hit is made in Karate, or a throw in Judo, or a ground manoeuver in jujitsu. The chef has to be in total control or he risks to cut himself.
It begins well before the Katana, a knife is a prehistoric invention, a tool of survival, a tool that helped man evolve and develop systems and the katana is a way of respect for a weapon and the control. Once upon a time, the knife was a weapon of usual habit, and today it is forbidden to carry and all katanas are registered in Japan as a weapon.
The sword is not a simple sword as far as Japanese are concerned and each part of the blade and handle has its own particular relevance. For this very reason when we learn about the importance of a knife and its history.
Wile the kitchen knife is simple, in Japan there is a history and there a multitude of types, shapes and sizes depending on their tasks, and knowing what you need and how to use it is the right approach.
On one of my trips to Europe, I talked with an important vendor who sells and sharpens knives. I commented on a filleting knife in his shop, a German made knife and I said, “a flexible knife is rather useless in comparison to a Japanese rigid blade”, and he commented, ” it is our culture to use such a knife”, and after I thought about it, he was right, but so wrong. I thought wrong because a rigid blade offers more precision and control, and less margin for error. If the blade is flexible and you exert a different force, weight and energy, the knife will react differently. The Japanese knife is heavy gauge to begin with so you use technique and not power.
To acquire the right knife is about how you work, and how much time you are dedicated to your tools. It is all about organization, dedication and the people you choose to work with, their understanding of what is the ultimate objectives in your own kitchen. The knife first of all when I speak of a Japanese knife we speak of a single edge, not a double edged blade because all western knives are double beveled and if you are seeking sharpness and blade precision, it comes (in theory) with a single edge.
Many people who spend thousands on knives in search of a fancy Japanese knife get fed up with the rusting. The truth is, a knife is not a just a straight edge, it is a tool that is connected to your soul, to your ideology of how to work, think and act. It is a tool that is an extension of your hand and mind, it requires respect and understanding.
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