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.

santoku

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.

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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.

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