How to… Use a Deba Bocho

As we’ve been showcasing, Japanese kitchens are equipped with simple, elegant tools that serve multiple purposes and are made to withstand constant use. Japanese knives are key to the culinary tradition, with the deba bocho being an important piece of the cook’s knife collection.

The deba bocho is one of the five basic knives that are part of most traditional Japanese kitchens. Along with funayuki bocho, nakiri bocho, wabocho or santoku, and the sashimi bocho, the deba bocho, which means “pointed carving knife” has a unique shape and heft that has evolved over time to become task–specific and task-expert.

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The deba bocho, also called a sakana bocho, is a thick-bladed, heavy knife with a sharp tip. The length of it can vary, but in general, the deba bocho is a medium to large (23-31 cm, or about 9-12 inches) knife that is used to hand-fillet fish, carve whole poultry and cut through larger chunks of meat, especially when the cook needs to cut through small bones.

The various parts of the blade are extremely useful for specific cuts. When filleting a fish, the broad, long edge of the blade is used to cut through the flesh along the edges of bones. The tip is used to sever fillets from the carcass and the corner edge is used to cut through larger pieces. The knife can also be used similar to a Western carving knife, useful for carving a chicken along the joint lines and along the breasts. The knife, especially if maintained correctly and sharpened regularly, makes precise cuts and will last the cook for many, many years.

Have you used this type of knife before? Share your stories!

 

How to…use an Oroshi-gane

Japanese kitchens are equipped with a few simple, elegant and highly-functional tools…great knives, a mortar and pestle, a rice cooker, chopsticks, and an oroshi-gane, or hand-held grater.

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A traditional sharkskin oroshi-gane

The oroshi-gane is a key implement used in daily Japanese cooking. Primarily used to grate roots, such as wasabi and ginger, the oroshi-gane is also used for grating daikon radishes, wild mountain yams and citrus zests.

The grater is commonly found in three varieties: plastic, ceramic and metal. They each oroshigane03feature a small handle that the cook holds, a flat surface with thorn-like projections against?which food is grated and a collection trough that captures the paste and juice from the grated food item. In old times most households owned a metal one. Today, plastic ones?are gaining popularity as they are less expensive and can be replaced when the grating surface becomes dull. They also come in a variety of colors and fun shapes, making the tedious grating experience a bit more exciting. Ceramic graters are easily breakable, but don’t retain odors which is nice when you grate a lot of ginger, wasabi, onions, or any herbs and vegetables that have a strong scent. Oroshi-gane were originally made from sharkskin stretched and glued onto a wooden board. The rough skin, similar to sandpaper in texture, turned wasabi roots into mush, creating the paste-like wasabi we know today.

Have you used this type of grater before? Share your stories!

How to…use a Suribachi and Surikogi

suribachikogi01Japanese cooking relies on a few carefully selected implements…a good knife, long chef’s chopsticks, a rice cooker and a mortar and pestle, or the suribachi and surikogi.

The suribachi is a finely-crafted earthenware mortar, in which all kinds of foods, seeds, spices and herbs are ground. Glazed on the outside in either a traditional brown or more modern hues, the medium-to-large sized bowls are carefully designed on the inside with rough ridges, called kushi-no-me, against which the cook will grind food. As with many Japanese arts, these fine ridges are often created to be beautiful as well as functional, and can be found in circular, comma or daisy-wheel patterns. When used with a surikogi, or wooden pestle, the textured interior surface helps to mash food quickly, until it is pulverized to the desired consistency.

The surikogi adds much to food preparation. Traditionally, the surikogi is made from the thicker part of the trunk of a sansho bush (Japanese pepper tree). When the knobby bark is left on the pestle, it helps cooks hold onto the implement more easily, and also imparts a slight and subtle peppery flavor to the food in the mortar.

The suribachi is originally from China and was introduced to Japan sometime in the 11th century. The earliest ones were made from rough stone and used to make medicine, grind flour, and roughly work other food. In modern Japanese kitchens, the suribachi and surikogi are much more refined, and usually purchased as a set.

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Japanese cooks will tell you to buy a big suribachi so that seeds don’t come flying out, and a sturdy, thick surikogi, so that it stands up to the demands of crushing and grinding. When using the suribachi, it’s important to place it on a flat surface, on top of a silicone mat or folded towel, for stability. And the best technique for using the surikogi is to hold it with two hands, one at the top of the dowel and one at the bottom, and rotate around the mortar.

For many gourmet cooks, implements like the suribachi and surikogi can be used to make dishes from multiple cuisines…Japanese shiraae dishes, Middle Eastern hummus and muhamara, Indian garam masala, and even Moroccan harissa! No matter what style of food you enjoy, the Japanese suribachi and surikogi are drool-worthy kitchen wonders.

Tell us what you use yours for!