The Art of Japanese Cooking – Kai Knives and Yuki’s Kitchen.
Guest Feature by Alex McMeekin:
A good kitchen knife should be a sharp knife! A sharp kitchen knife is a safe knife!
That second statement might seem slightly uneasy to accept, but there are reasons why it’s true.
Kai Knives have been creating knives since 1908 in Japan. They are made of Damask steel, which is a layering technique. The steel ingot is heated and folded and beaten, perhaps a little bit like you might fold bread dough over upon itself whilst kneading. This technique allows the central core to be made from very hard steel, and the outer layers from more flexible steel. The result is a blade which has flexibility, yet also sustains and very sharp, hard cutting edge.
A kitchen knife which fits your hand properly, which is properly balanced for weight distribution, and is very sharp……. is predictable in its cutting action. That’s what makes it safe, your confidence that it will do its job perfectly each time you use it. If you cook regularly, and enjoy it, then you will probably want to invest in a few decent items of kitchenware. It costs more, but in the long run you get what you pay for. A good kitchen knife will last a professional chef maybe 10 years. The same knife will last a keen amateur a lifetime! Spread that initial cost over a lifetime and it really is peanuts!
Kai Knives were in action at Yuki’s Kitchen and we were invited to come along and be expertly tutored in the art of making Sushi. Yuki Gomi has been cooking all over the world at many schools and restaurants, before deciding to settle in the UK and begin teaching the skills she has learnt.
Yuki uses Kai Knives in her classes, as she needs a knife that will take the punishment of amateur handling, be easy to use, ergonomic in design and remain sharp at all times. A sharp knife is essential in Sushi-making. There is an element of precision involved, and a sharp knife is essential in enabling you to make those fine and accurate cuts in your ingredients.
Yuki began by talking about the rice used for Sushi. The Japanese are slightly obsessional about rice quality, and will pay a lot of money for their preferred choice. The term “Sushi-rice” is a misnomer really, the rice is Japanese rice, and the marinade that covers and mixes with the rice is what makes it Sushi-rice. Yuki led us through the process of making and preparing the rice before we moved on to the slicing!
Some top quality Tuna and Salmon was prepared, along with cucumber, Japanese omelette, and Avocado. Cutting the fish was something most of us had a go at, and as I mentioned, a quality knife is what makes the difference here. Cutting long and thin strips of fish was very straightforward with the Kai Knives we were using for the task.
Once all the ingredients and components were prepared, it was time to assemble our Sushi. The sheet of Nori(Seaweed) is laid out on the Sushi-mat and the ingredients built up on top, until you are ready to roll. Rolling Sushi takes a little technique to be neat, but once you’ve done it successfully it’s an easy process to repeat.
Once the rolls are made it’s time to cut them to the short lengths of classic Sushi. The Kai Knives made easy work of this and the final results were very pleasing on the eye…. and the palate!
Back home, I decided to try a knife out on some simple slicing of a Tomato and an Onion. Both are easy enough to chop and slice, but a truly good Knife will allow you to slice very thinly indeed. The tomato was possible to slice so thinly that it was translucent!
I would thoroughly recommend Yuki’s Kitchen for any of her classes, the facilities are superb, and Yuki herself is very warm and friendly, an excellent tutor, and a very good chef to boot!
Kai knives are without doubt a very high quality, professional choice for chefs. But if you are thinking you need a better knife for your own kitchen then I can thoroughly recommend them!
Kai Knives are available all over the UK.