Monday, March 9, 2009

Japanese Knife Drills 101

I am undergoing the tutelage of Madam Sadako on further Japanese cooking in addition to the training I had in Japan two months ago. Although two lessons are similar in heart, they are still different in many ways. I start my lessons after work, that around 8:30 in the evening, instead of hot- oiling my hair, I am still chopping daikon. Sadako- san is a highly private woman who entertains like a geisha but cooks like a samurai. Having cooked for many, many years, she had lived in New York and has always been attached to Japanese cooking it already has become her second nature. I adore her. Imagine the Memoirs of a Geisha where the apprentice was being taught, but this time, it is not dancing but cooking.

Doing knife activities has a charm of its own, I don’t know, but I guess this knife lesson with Sadako-san distract me to all other things like… the valuable lessons of a knife and how a woman must love. Over the chopping board, I was told that no matter how your heart is knifed, just take it gracefully, and though tears cling at your eyelashes, just smile and bow. That makes a woman beautiful. A woman should be like a sword sheathed in a beautiful silk- where beauty is woven on the outside, a steel- like character must be kept inside. Sadako- san had said that love is not a feeling, but a will. One day, a dashing samurai on a horseback will come galloping over the hills and I will serve him with matcha. Well at least now I know how to serve and prepare authentic matcha.

So much about chopping board conversations. What can you expect, older woman who had seen life and asks about your love affairs, and a younger one who had just metamorphosed.

-alright, now where are we?

Knife drills.

Koguchi- giri. To cut into slices, a technique commonly used for long and narrow vegetables. To tell you the truth, barbaric as it may sound, but when the asparagus spears are way too narrow and tender, I just wash them thoroughly with baking soda and water but I… I don’t peel them anymore. Unlike carrots and radish, they don’t grow under the ground. When I tried to peel little spears years ago, I ruined the thing.

Ran- giri. To cut in rolling cubes. Also used for long and narrow vegetables.

Hangetsu- giri (to cut into crescents) and wan- giri to cut into round slice like coins. The thickness can vary though according to the dish. All the same, whether it is .5 or 1 cm, it is still termed as wan- giri, unlike French cuts where the name changes at every millimeter difference. The Japanese have this rule to always “cut against the fiber”.

Sasagaki shavings. It is used for shaving long and narrow vegetables, and such shaved vegetables make attractive garnish. To do sasagaki, make several scores about 5 mm lengthways with the tip of the knife. Then shave- cut while you rotate, like sharpening a pencil. The vegetable will end up like a sharpened pencil.

Shikishi- giri. To shape into square. Can be larger than a matignon (1cm x 1 cm x .5cm). Or can pass as matignon.

Julienne, or sen- giri.

Mijin- giri (to mince). Can be a little larger than brunoise by .5 mm. Brunoise.

Katsura- muki. This is my favorite cut. While Morimoto can already make a curtain out of a single daikon, I still take time and enjoy knifing through the flesh of the vegetable, almost quite certain that their structure is made for this type of cut. Insert the knife parallel to the ingredient. Then rotate the daikon towards the edge of the knife while slowly moving the blade.

When sliced further, becomes this. The katsuramuki however can be used to further cut into diagonal or julienne.

Yes, I enjoy this immensely.


Anonymous said...

You've got skills Foohuntress! I'm enjoying this immensely too. Love the Japanese names for each cuts.

foodhuntress79 said...

Zen Chef, particularly challenging is the katsuramuki. You have that Morimoto cookbook, right? See how he did the ninjin and the daikon.