Japanese knives have become super popular these days and it seems that every chef and serious home cook own collection of beautiful Japanese knives. Although there are so many different types of knives like Deba, Sashimi, or even Eel knife depending on each tasks, one that is most commonly used would be Santoku knives.
So what is a Santoku knife? It is basically a small- medium sized all-round knife with the blade length of 15-19.5cm but wider surface than a chef knife and round pin shaped tip. Well, in short, Santoku is a knife for everyone and for everything. The word Santoku has come from Buddhism word but also means ‘’ 3 ways in one ‘’ in Japanese. Sounds like it’s very useful! The history of Santoku is not so old. Believe it or not, up until 1870, eating 4 legged animals were considered as a very barbarous behaviour in Japanese culture. People would look at you as though you are crazy if you tell that you have eaten roast beef. Popular knives back then were called Nakiri which has a rectangle shape and is designed for shredding vegetables. After beef and pork were introduced and slowly adopted to city people, western style chef knives came to the market. These chef knives were called Gyuto which directly translated for ‘’ Beef sword ‘’ in Japanese and blacksmiths in Tokyo area started making chef knives with a bit of Japanese taste. The western style chef knives and Gyuto, however, were never popular at first as they were too long and pointy for the households.
It is fairly understandable because for housewives, ( Men were not allowed to go into the kitchen back then.. ) their main knives had been light rectangle Nakiri for many years and no one was used to the shape and length of chef knives.
Some blacksmiths then made knives in between chef knife and Nakiri. It has the width of Nakiri, gentle point and rather straight edge line for all-round purposes. This new type was named Bunka- bocho or Santoku and because of all-round character, quickly became as the main knife to use for the households. Today, because of improved steels and methods, performance of Santoku knives has gone up to the sky. The thin, wide blade makes it really easy to slice or dice vegetables and you can still use the tip for trimming and slicing meat and fish. The length of Santoku is perfect for tight household kitchens with many items spread on the bench and also commercial kitchens where chefs are busily running around. To tell the truth, I have quite a few knives to use at home but all my wife uses is a Santoku knife and it tells that how easy it is to use it. There are also Santoku with hammered dimples called Tsuchime or roughly finished surface of blade called Nashiji which give air between ingredients and cutting edge so that food doesn’t stick to the blade. These are not only handy to use but also look very fancy.
A good tip for choosing a Santoku is that if you have a small hands and weak wrists, go for a light one so you won’t get tired easily and then heavier larger one if you are good at armwrestling. Beautiful Santoku is not only for your treat but also would be a perfect gift for weddings, moving or when someone starts a new life.