Japanese Kitchen Knives by Hiromitsu Nozaki, teaches knife cutting techniques like Ken Needle Cut: Cutting Daikon Needle Strips, Chasen-giri Tea-whisk Cut (for Eggplant), and Dividing Fish Heads; and includes recipes like Needle-cut Vegetable Salad with Sesame Dressing, Simmered Eggplant and Chicken Breast, and Braised Tai Sea Bream Head with Turnips.
Sashimi is often served with vegetable garnishes, or tsuma, perhaps the most common of which is a heap of shredded daikon that serves as a bed for the fish slices. The technique used to shred daikon in this style is called ken. As a garnish for sashimi, ken-cut daikon absorbs fishy odors, cleanses the palate and makes an attractive foil for presenting vividly colored sashimi.
Many vegetables, including ginger, potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, garlic, leeks, and red radishes, can also be cut this way. When shredding fibrous vegetables like ginger and daikon, be aware which way the grain of the fiber runs. Slicing in the same direction as the grain will produce stiff, straight needles, while cutting across the grain makes soft threads. In the photo, the daikon on the left was cut across the grain; the one on the right was cut along the grain.
See the recipe for Needle-cut Vegetable Salad with Sesame Dressing.
1, 2. Peel a 4-inch (10 cm) length of daikon and cut into a paper-thin sheet, katsuramuki style (see p. 26 of the book). Cut the sheet into squares and stack them up.
3. Cut the stacked sheets at intervals about the width of three fingers.
4, 5. Lay the resulting stacks so that they overlap (photo 4), then gently fan them to the left to make many layers.
To create sharper, stiffer needles, lay the sheets with the grain of the fibers running parallel to the blade. Cut along the grain in very thin strips. If soft threads are desired, lay the sheets so the grain is perpendicular to the blade, then cut across the fibers.
6. When cutting, curl the fingers of the left hand so that the fingertip knuckles press against the blade, controlling the thickness of the strips. Take care to keep the thumb well behind the fingers to avoid getting cut. Cut by smoothly pushing the knife down and away, with the blade held nearly parallel to the' cutting board.
7. Place the shredded daikon in a bowl of cold water to crisp.
8. Form ken-cut daikon into heaps for tsuma sashimi garnish. The finely sliced needle strips are fluffy and easy to shape into mounds.
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