24th April 2023
By Bert Beagley-Brown
Over the last few years, the West has seen a rise in vegetarianism and veganism alongside the increased popularity of Japanese knives. As a result, two traditional Japanese knives explicitly designed for vegetables - the Bunka and the Nakiri - have become the go-to favourites for our vegetable chopping needs. Many see these two knives as a must-have kitchen staple, both at home and in professional kitchens worldwide.
To understand the design of these knives, the first thing to learn is how the blades are used. Vegetables are often ‘chopped’ rather than ‘sliced’ as they are typically round and relatively large. ‘Chopping’ refers to an up-and-down motion, cutting against a chopping board. The chop can be straight up and down or combined with a slight forward or backward motion to produce a diagonal cutting direction.
Vegetable choppers tend to have deeper-than-average blades. This gives you ample ‘knuckle clearance’ to hone your technique safely without hitting your knuckles on the chopping board.
The Japanese vegetable knives also provide an excellent size blade for cutting more significant items, such as those tricky pumpkins and large peppers. Compared to other Japanese knives, the more traditional Japanese vegetable choppers have a larger blade area that is perfect for carrying your prepared food around the kitchen. These vegetable-specific knives also tend to have pretty straight blades because you want the blade's full length to make contact with your chopping board, cutting completely through the veg.
TOG Knives provide two top-tier knives made for preparing vegetables. In a departure from tradition, however, we have slightly curved the blades, allowing you to use a slight ‘rock-chop’ motion to rock the edge while keeping the tip in contact with the chopping board.
'NAKIRI' - LARGE VEGETABLE CHOPPER
The traditional Nakiri knife has a substantial rectangular blade with a straight edge, typically 17 or 18cm long. It has a thin, double-bevel (symmetrical) blade, unlike its more traditional Japanese parent, the ‘Usuba’, which is single bevel and has a thick blade. However, the Nakiri is more versatile and accessible to wield than its Usuba counterpart, which is why it is much more prevalent in the West. The tip of the Nakiri knife is rounded off so that it doesn’t stick into the board if the knife is held up at an angle.
The Nakiri knife has become one of the most popular ‘go-to’ knives for amateur and professional cooks alike, and it has developed quite a cult following due to its distinctive blade.
'MINI BUNKA' - SMALL VEGETABLE CHOPPER
The Mini Bunka has a similarly deep rectangular blade, but the tip is diagonal, giving you a sharper point than the Nakiri. It has a smaller 14cm blade making this knife easier to handle. It is perfect for smaller items requiring fine and accurate chopping, such as garlic, ginger or chilli.
Preparing a meal with the wrong equipment is undoubtedly a frustration. Each of us has had no choice but to prepare a meal with low-quality knives, chopping boards and the like, which haven’t quite hit the mark before.
Japanese vegetable choppers, however, are a chef’s best friend; they are highly versatile with thin, deep, rectangular blades. They give excellent knuckle clearance. They are easily handled and ideally suited to chopping small and medium-sized vegetables for superior results.