When cooking food from another culture, you want to be as authentic as possible, in every respect.
Not only is it it crucial to capture the flavors and presentation as well as you possibly can, but the way in which you prepare it has to be true as well. Japanese cuisine has some of the most incredible aesthetics of any, from the vibrant colors to the artistic arrangements.
To recreate the finest Japanese recipes in your own restaurant or home, you have to pay attention to authentic preparation techniques. Once you have the best Japanese kitchen knives, knowing how to chop with them is key – so let’s take a look at some of the most important methods …
Proper Knife Technique
First and foremost, you should hold your knife with your thumb and forefinger at the edge of the handle, beneath the blade (but not actually touching the steel).
You should move the knife back and forth when chopping, rather than simply pressing it down. This is easier to perform, and creates a smoother slice, essential for authentic Japanese presentation.
In Japanese meals, you’ll notice certain ingredients cut into very fine, delicate slices.
Ginger, onion, cucumber, aubergine, garlic, and others are usually chopped into thin pieces for a variety of dishes, helping them to crisp while cooking. You’ll find this in stir fries and salads primarily, which helps to create a more diverse assortment of textures.
To create thin slices, chop the ingredient either crosswise or lengthwise – the latter is ideal for a harder texture, while the former’s best for a more malleable feel. With enough practice, you’ll be able to do this quickly, safely, and efficiently. Just take care to start slowly.
This Japanese chopping technique creates thin oval shapes, and is fairly simple: just slice diagonally. This creates a selection of larger pieces in a dish.
This half-moon chopping technique is used on rounded vegetables. First, cut them longwise, and then into half-moon shapes – simple!
This method is typically used when making boiled dishes, or soups.
Rangiri is used for cutting long vegetables with a rounded shape (such as cucumber, carrots etc.), beginning with a diagonal slice. You should then rotate the ingredient, and cut it into portions (of various shapes, not just the same) of an equal size.
With these shapes, vegetables tend to cook a little faster, and create a more interesting, unbalanced aesthetic.
This Japanese chopping technique is used to cut vegetables like cucumber and green onions, creating slices of variable thicknesses. Usually, these will be around 2 or 3mm – very fine.
When cutting with this technique, it’s easy to get into a fast, consistent rhythm.
Chopping in this style creates diced vegetables, ideal for salads and soups, usually in very small portions.
You can use this chopping technique to slice vegetables into julienne strips, for stir fries and a variety of other dishes. Again, with enough practice, you’ll be able to cut in the sengiri style with impressive speed.
These are only a selection of Japanese chopping techniques, of course, but they’re enough to help you get started. Developing skills in Japanese cuisine is incredibly rewarding, not only for the delicious flavors and textures, but also for the artistic presentation.