If your view of Japanese knives is still shaped by the Ginsu knife (check out that pink tomato! Ah, the ’70s), Salon’s ready to school you with “This Blade Slices, It Dices,” a lyrical look at hand-forged Japanese knives.
These babies are quite the craze amongst your fancy-schmancy chef types, who appreciate their exceptional sharpness, gracefulness, and beauty. They are very different knives than the heavy, traditional German-style blades once de rigueur in American kitchens, and for “This Blade Slices,” reporter Harris Salat travels to Sakai, Japan, to find out why.
After reading Salat’s beautiful descriptions of the knife-makers at work, you’ll probably be itching to try one of their blades. But what really sold me was this passage from Salat’s visit to a fugu chef:
The chef soon laid 20 knives on the counter. Each had a specific purpose: Three were just for slicing fugu into sashimi. How sharp were they? He grabbed one of the slicers and split in half a piece of fugu skin—thinner than cardboard—lengthwise.
As I watched the chef work, it seemed his knives didn’t so much cut ingredients as float through them. ‘The knife becomes an extension of my hand,’ he explained. He rested his index finger on a blade’s spine and guided it almost effortlessly.
I want, I want, I want! Not so fast, though. Japanese knives can be a pain to care for—Salat mentions that the fugu chef sharpens and polishes his knives every day, as carbon steel can rust. I only get my Wüsthof chef’s knife sharpened once every few months or so, and rusting doesn’t seem to be a problem. Are Japanese knives really worth the extra work?