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Thu Jun 14, 2012 6:29 pm
I'd say that kind of skill and confidence takes a few decades. The ability to do that technique is just a matter of how you learn and how much you get to practice--working at a busy sushi bar, you will learn much faster than at home.
You can follow along with that video, though. When I was at the sushi bar, it took me about a dozen flounder(easiest fish) before I got one that was totally clean and no mistakes. Some Sushi places don't let you do anything but make rice for a while(some as long as 2 years), and most won't let you cut fish until they lose an elder staff member. If the sushi bar is nothing but young guys, it's either hip and fresh and badass, or it's a bunch of dudes who were too arrogant/impatient to work with the people that tried to train them and just took off on their own.
As far as how long it would take to do that fish for a proficient chef--3-5 minutes, mostly because he's dealing with the fish being alive. Properly cutting up an already totally dead fish doesn't take much more than a minute unless your tools are sub-par or you make a mistake--all fish are pretty much the same inside, so yellowtail, snapper, bream, etc...it's all about the same. Do something enough times and you'll be able to do it in as long as it takes you to make the motions happen.
Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:21 am
Thanks for the info, Eamon.
I'm a home cook with little or no chance of obtaining enough whole fish to practice anything.
Which is not to say I won't continue to watch the videos repeatedly and being absolutely blown away by the combination of art, technique and tradition.
Reminds me a lot of watching McDonalds' crews finessing Big Macs together, really.
Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:35 am
I get the spirit of the post -- that J-knives are often designed for very, very specific purposes -- and seeing such badass fish butchery is, to be sure, inspiring.
But to what extent can a deba be used in other capacities? There is a fine video on Mark's site that shows someone making quick and easy work of a whole chicken using a deba. Is this the intended purpose of a deba? No. Does it work? Yup and damn well from my slightly neophyte perspective. Is there anything wrong with using a deba for this? Only if you consider using a tool for an unintended purpose some kind of slight against tradition. I'm not in that camp.
Let's say that in addition to fish butchering you want to cut some hard cheese, squash, nuts, or other things that seem punishing to a thin and (comparatively) delicate blade, what knife should you use?
I ask this because these are the tasks for which I keep my old German knives around and I'd been hoping to find a suitable Japanese replacement. Mark has suggested the Tojiro Western Deba. It appears to be a cool knife -- not a traditional deba but burly and a capable all of the same.
If not a deba, then what kind of knife should I be using to cut the stuff that would unnecessarily batter the more delicate and precise members of my fleet?
Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:57 am
The best thing I've ever used to cut butternut squash is a CCK 1303, and it's not hefty at all. The thinness of the blade actually is the best quality to have with hard squashes--the difficulty people have is from the blade wedging.
I've never damaged any of my knives double-bevel knives cutting anything, really(except cutting into a cheap bamboo board, it chipped up my tojiro dp). I have used, and will use any knife on my wall to cut chocolate blocks, almonds, butternut squash, chicken bones, anything. They are plates of steel!
If you are going to be bashing into bones, this is really a strange situation--Japanese butchery dictates that you cut around bones and disassemble the animal, and European butchery dictates that you use a knife for meat, and a saw for bone.
I have damaged single bevels using them sloppily--chipping a yanagiba on a bone, etc. Also, I've had tip tweak off or chips show up from torquing a blade inside something rigid...that is just bad technique. Lessons learned.
As I said, if you use a deba for anything other than butchering fish, it's not going to be the ideal knife for the job, since it was designed to excel at one thing. If you get a deba and NEVER use it to butcher a fish, that's a real shame. It's like buying a 4x4 pickup with offroad tires and only using it to commute to and from work.
Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:39 pm
Billy wrote:I get the spirit of the post -- that J-knives are often designed for very, very specific purposes -- and seeing such badass fish butchery is, to be sure, inspiring.
But to what extent [i]can a deba be used in other capacities? There is a fine video on Mark's site that shows someone making quick and easy work of a whole chicken using a deba. Is this the intended purpose of a deba? No. Does it work? Yup and damn well from my slightly neophyte perspective. Is there anything wrong with using a deba for this? Only if you consider using a tool for an unintended purpose some kind of slight against tradition. I'm not in that camp.
You can draw a parallel with carpentry. Yes, it's possible to use a rip saw to crosscut lumber, and to a neophyte, it looks pretty good, but using the tool designed for the task will always give a better result. That's not a "slight against tradition", it's just good craftsmanship. The same thing applies to using a deba for breaking down a chicken; yes, it can be done, but it's not using the right tool for the job. A petty knife works much better than a deba for that task. It's not affectation, it's just common sense.
Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:44 pm
The Japanese tool for the job is a Honesuki. But a Honesuki comes with it's own technique too.
I break down chickens with a petty, or a 210mm gyuto.
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