Sashimi is one of Japan’s finest delicacies enjoyed by many people around the globe.
In this dish, the raw fish or meat is sliced thinly and served with soy sauce.
Aside from making sure you use fresh fish, another essential factor to making good sashimi is the knife used.
This is where the Yanagiba knife comes in.
What is a Yanagiba knife, and why is it the top choice of knife for preparing sashimi?
What Is a Yanagiba Knife?
The Yanagiba knife is a single-bevel knife, which means that only one side of the blade is sharp.
In comparison, most western-style knives are sharpened on both sides.
This type of knife is made specifically to provide a unique cut for sashimi.
It has a thick spine, but the edge on a high-quality Yanagiba knife is extremely thin.
The main idea behind this is to let the weight of the spine take care of the downward force when slicing through fish.
Since you are not forcing the knife downwards, less friction will be made.
As a result, there won’t be any tears on the fish meat, and you are left with a smooth and thin piece.
Yanagiba knives are usually made of carbon steel, which can hold a fine edge longer than any type of metal.
More often than not, you will find this type of knife made for right-handed people.
Ready-made knives from the store are usually for right-handed users.
If your left hand is more dominant, you will have to get a customized version of this knife.
Characteristics of a Yanagiba Knife
The Yanagiba knife is one of the best knives you can use for sashimi.
However, it’s very easy to get confused, especially if you find them being sold online.
If you want to make sure you can get an authentic Yanagiba knife, you need to know some of its main characteristics.
The Yanagiba knife is made solely for slicing raw fish to prepare nigiri sushi and sashimi.
To achieve the required cuts for these Japanese delicacies, the size of the blade needs to be precise as well.
The Yanagiba needs to have a long, narrow, and thin blade that will allow you to cut through fish with just a single stroke.
In doing so, you get a smooth and shiny piece of fish meat.
If you start sawing back and forth, the meat will be completely damaged.
The length of the blade should be between 210mm to 360mm.
You can choose a specific length depending on the type of fish you’re going to cut.
You can buy multiple Yanagiba knives if you have a restaurant as you might need to deal with different types of fish.
If you only want to buy a single knife, you should opt for a blade length between 270mm and 330mm.
Known as “willow leaf blade,” you can see the resemblance on its pointed tip.
This knife has a thin and narrow blade, so it will have a pointed tip that is very similar to a willow leaf.
The blade edge has to be very thin to get the perfect glossy slices of sashimi without bruises and tears.
If your Yanagiba knife has a thick blade, you might end up tearing and damaging the fish.
Since only one side of the blade is ground to create a razor-sharp edge, the other side will be slightly concave.
This will provide a non-stick property to the blade so that you can cut thin slices without the meat sticking.
Ever since Yanagiba knives became popular, you can now get them in two distinct handles: the traditional “Wa-Handle” and the Western-style handle.
If you are used to western-style knives, getting a handle with the same shape might be your best bet.
In this way, adjusting your cutting technique will not be a problem.
However, if you prefer to learn the original style of the Japanese, using the wooden Wa-handle is the best choice.
You will find that many Wa-handles feature a D-shape, octagonal, or oval.
These shapes have different benefits and disadvantages, so the best thing to do is to choose based on your personal preference.
Sashimi Cutting Techniques You Can Master with a Yanagiba Knife
Are you fully committed to learning the ways of the Japanese in making sashimi?
There are a few cutting techniques you must learn and master using a Yanagiba knife beforehand.
Hirazukuri (To Pull-Cut Vertically)
For fatty fish, like salmon or tuna, this type of technique is often used.
In fact, you can use it to prepare almost all kinds of fish for sashimi.
It involves slicing through fish in a vertical direction as you hold the knife in an angle.
Compared to traditional sashimi, though, you’re making a thicker cut.
Usuzukuri (To Pull-Cut Thin Vertically)
This type of cutting technique is entirely different from the Hirazukuri, where you make thicker cuts.
In this technique of cutting fish for sashimi, you need to make “fine cuts.”
The reason you would want to make thin slices of white fish is to showcase the translucence of its meat.
Basically, the goal of this cutting technique is to slice as thinly as possible.
Sogizukuri (To Pull-Cut at an Angle)
In this cutting technique, you need to cut the fish in a 45-degree angle tilt and then pull the knife back.
The result is a clean, precise cut that is perfect for making sashimi and sushi similar to how the pros do it.
Knowing what is a Yanagiba knife is just the beginning because learning how to use it will undoubtedly take a lot of time.
Most of the chefs in Japan spend years mastering the art of creating sashimi and sushi, so if you’re really up for it, start by getting an authentic Yanagiba knife.
The knife’s characteristics mentioned earlier can serve as your guide to make sure that you won’t make a buying mistake.
After all, sashimi is a very delicate dish, and you should only prepare it with the use of the best Yanagiba knife.