Sushi making is one of those culinary arts that has grown from the Japanese culture and proliferated into the western world. The distinct, exotic taste and the artistic and creative presentation of sushi rolls have captured the hearts and taste buds of many people around the world.
There are several steps involved in the making of a fine Japanese dish like sushi, and for an authentic and traditional sushi chef, this requires the use of specially crafted cooking utensils: sushi knives. It may sound impractical to have different knives for cooking, but such is the way of the samurai sushi maker. But why is this so? Why can’t they just use any knife in making sushi?
What Makes a Sushi Knife Special
There are several things that make a sushi knife subtly different from other ordinary blades.
For one, a sushi knife must be sharp – extremely sharp – not just "sharp" or "really sharp." It has to cut through fish and vegetables and nori (seaweed paper) like laser cutting through butter. In addition, the blade of a sushi knife is beveled in one side which helps to keep the nori, sticky rice, and other parts of the dishes from sticking to it and getting deformed. Remember, food is also about presentation and not just taste.
In addition, a sushi knife is made from high-carbon steel. The composition of this metal allows it to be sharpened to its utmost possible sharpness, something that can be difficult to achieve with a stainless steel and other common kitchen knives. However, because of the type of metal used, sushi knives are also high-maintenance, meaning they have to be cleaned and dried properly or else they will rust.
Traditional sushi knives also have a uniquely different handle, most often with a “D” cross section. Accordingly, this helps to make the grip better and much more comfortable; helping the sushi maker work faster and minimizes the soreness that comes from all the cutting.
Types of Sushi Knives
As mentioned earlier, there are different types of sushi knives available. If you ask a traditional sushi maker, they may have over ten different types of knives in their belt when making sushi. But then again, if you are planning to make sushi just for friends and family, then the kinds of sushi knife below should be enough to do the trick:
• Yanagiba. This knife is used for cutting shashimi or fillet fish that goes into or on top of the sushi roll. It is one of the longer and sharper sushi knives to allow for precise and accurate cuts.
• Deba. This is what the sushi maker uses in cutting through the bones and cartilage of the fish and thick vegetables. It has a heavier and sturdier blade, with edges that taper to the tip. These features make it efficient for its purpose.
• Usuba. The usuba is used primarily for making fine cuts on fish, and in the slicing and peeling of vegetables. Both the straight edges of this blade are sharpened unlike the two mentioned above.
• Kodeba. This is the smallest of all the sushi knives mentioned so far, and is used for cleaning and preparing shellfish and the small types of fish when the yanagiba is not able to.
There are more types of sushi knives not mentioned here, but these four here are considered to be the “essentials” in the sushi making. Do take note, by the way, that most sushi knives are specifically created for right-handed people, so if you are left-handed, you may want to consider having a custom sushi knife for you.
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