Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen

Kitchen Utensils: Part I

料理道具

Many different utensils are used in the Japanese kitchen. In this episode from the series Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen, Michelin-listed chef Shimizu Akira of AKIRA restaurant introduces hinoki chopping board, fish bone tweezers and pots and pans.

Chopping Boards

There are many types of chopping boardsmana-ita, made of a variety of materials. Akira recommends using one that is made from wood; hinoki (cypress) in particular provides an ideal cutting surface as it is a medium-soft wood that is gentle on the knife blade, easy to use, and possesses antibacterial and insect-repelling properties.

Before using a hinoki chopping board, wet it with cold water. This helps to prevent the board from absorbing food odours. After use, wash the board with detergent and a scrubbing brush, and leave it to dry in a well-ventilated place. From time to time, you may wish to give your chopping board a deep clean. If it has absorbed strong food odours, for example after dressing a fish, Akira recommends sprinkling the board with salt, scrubbing it with a brush, then washing it with vinegar and disinfecting it with boiling water before rinsing and drying. Should any mould appear on a wooden chopping board, place it at an angle, cover with a cloth and apply bleach. Leave it to stand for a while before rinsing off the bleach.

Fish Bone Tweezers

Fish bone tweezers are an essential tool in the Japanese kitchen, designed to remove fish bones with precision and without damaging the fillet. There is a knack to using them well — hold them only at the pinching end, with your index finger and thumb exerting pressure. By mastering this technique, you can remove bones easily and avoid them breaking. Stainless steel tweezers are ideal as they are resistant to rust. 

Pots and Pans

The performance of a pot or pan, nabe, is determined by its thermal conductivity. Copper is a very conductive material; however, for everyday home use, Akira recommends the highly conductive, affordable and easy-to-clean yukihira pots and yattoko pans made from aluminium.

Aluminium vessels possess a high thermal conductivity than those made of stainless steel and can be used to make boiled or stewed dishes as well as soup. The hammered surface of aluminium pots and pans increases the area of ‘heat contact’, making it easier for the heat to spread through the food. One thing to keep in mind about this material is its poor resistance to acids. Once you’ve prepared your dish, it is not recommended to leave it to sit in the pot or pan.