Explination of Unagisaki knives

Discussion in 'Korin Japanese Trading' started by Korin_Mari, Sep 19, 2014.

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  1. Sep 19, 2014 #1

    Korin_Mari

    Korin_Mari

    Korin_Mari

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    Hello hello!
    For the Masamoto event, Korin is going to display/sell Masamoto knives that we don't typically carry. We received the package of knives from Masamoto on Wednesday, and it was filled with things we have never seen before... There was a 15.4" yanagi knife (I could have gone on a quest to fight evil with it), vegetable knives that we have never seen used in real life, and 4 different types of eel knives. As we sat there discussing where we are going to put the super large yanagi, I couldn't help but wonder "Why are there 4 types of eel knives?"

    ... And so my research on eel knives and eel cooking began.

    [​IMG]

    Unagisaki knives are special traditional Japanese knives used for cutting and filleting eel. What makes the unagisaki knives especially interesting in comparison to other traditional Japanese knives is the number of styles that exist.

    If you were to divide unagisaki knives into two categories, they would be Kansai and Kanto style unagi knives. If one were to be more specific it would be Edo-style, Kyoto-style, Nagoya-style, Osaka-style and Kyushuu-style. The reason for the number of styles is not because there are different needs or types of eel depending on region. It is due to the variations in preparing the eel.

    Chefs in the Kanto region slice and open eel from the spine, because of the region's samurai background. Although slicing eel from the stomach would make filleting such a long and slippery fish easier, the idea is strongly associated with seppuku, which is a form of suicide by disembowelment used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor. Therefore the image of cutting the stomach is thought to be taboo and brings bad fortune.

    640px-Seppuku-2.jpg

    However, in the Kansai region where nobility and merchants heavily influenced the culture, there was no disapproval or hesitation to cutting from the stomach. Another theory to the difference is because of a popular saying in the Kansai region by the merchants. "腹を割って話そう (hara o watte hanasou)," which literally means lets split our stomach and speak frankly.

    Depending on which cutting method and tools one chooses, the flavors of the eel also changes.

    [​IMG]

    Kanto eel preparation
    Eel is cooked by opening the eel from the spine, removing the head, cutting the long fillet in half, lightly cooking the skin side, steaming the cuts, grilling using bamboo skewers, then adding sauce.
    When one cuts and opens the eel from the spine, the eel's stomach becomes the center of the cut. Therefore more of eel's umami/fat that is located in the stomach is preserved, and easily seeps into the rest of the fillet while it grills. The aesthetic of the eel is also better, because the center sinks while the sides plump up.
    [​IMG]
    ^^ Kanto eel grilling

    [​IMG]
    Top is Kanto, bottom is Kansai. This image shows how the eel is filleted.

    Kansai eel preparation
    Eel is cooked by opening the eel from the stomach with the head still attached, grilling using steel skewers, then adding sauce.
    By cutting from the stomach, the umami and flavors of the eels is located on the edge of the cut, making it easier for the umami and flavors to drip away. Because the eel is grilled immediately, the skin tends to make the fish shrink.
    [​IMG]
    ^^ Kansai eel grilling

    The reason for the difference in the shape of the knives can also be found in the preparation of eel.

    Kanto knives
    [​IMG]
    Edosaki blades are longer than its counterparts and are triangularly sharpened. Because the knife will get caught in the bone if you cut from the spine, the Kanto-style (edo-style) knives have a sharp triangular blade to easily cut into the eel. Kansai cut from the softer side of the eel, the knives do not need a tapered point. The tip is used to easily slice through the spine, and the rest of the blade is used to cut fillets.This style of knife also has a shortened handle that fits nicely in the user's palm when in use. Edosaki knives are used to cut eel from the spine. The meuchi used for this cutting technique is very simple and does not have a T-shaped handled like the others. Since the spine is cut into first the eel does not struggle as much while being prepared.

    Kansai knives
    [​IMG]
    The Nagoyasaki is the oldest and classically used knife to prepare eel by cutting from the stomach.

    [​IMG]
    Kyosaki was originally intended to be able to cut eel from the stomach or the spine. However, because the Kansai region does not steam the eel before grilling, the Kyosaki knife does not have a pointed tip like the Kanto-style knives.The meuchi (the spikes) typically used with this style of knife has a large end used to help grip the eel while cutting into it.

    [​IMG]
    Osakasaki knives have the most unique and distinct look. These knives are rectangular, have a pointed tip like the Edo-saki knives, and do not have a handle. They look similar to a carpenter's tool.

    I hope you enjoyed my little research post. Thanks for reading!

    Ps. Happy Friday! I'm going to go eat unaju now, because that is ALL that I have been thinking about for 3 days.
    This is unaju:
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Sep 20, 2014 #2

    scotchef38

    scotchef38

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    Very interesting,thanks!
     
  3. Sep 20, 2014 #3

    James

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    Very informative! Now the only question I have is - what restaurant did the unaju come from? :D
     
  4. Sep 20, 2014 #4

    JDA_NC

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    Very cool! Thanks for doing this.

    Here's a great video of someone using a Edosaki:



    Pretty incredible
     
  5. Sep 20, 2014 #5

    jared08

    jared08

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    Not to go off topic but doesnt it look like he is using a huge amount of pressure on the stone to sharpen and never even check to deburr?
    Impressive.

    Thanks for the original post and the vid! Very cool
     
  6. Sep 20, 2014 #6

    apicius9

    apicius9

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    Thank you very much, I love posts like this where you can learn something. And the video adds to it. Looks like I gotta keep my eyes open for unaju in the local Japanese places, this looks great.

    Stefan
     
  7. Sep 21, 2014 #7

    dream816

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    Looks delicious ... too bad I am not trained to use one of these
     
  8. Sep 22, 2014 #8

    Korin_Mari

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    Thank you for reading everyone! :)
     
  9. Sep 22, 2014 #9

    Korin_Mari

    Korin_Mari

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    That's an awesome video! Thank you for posting it. :)
     
  10. Sep 22, 2014 #10

    Korin_Mari

    Korin_Mari

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    I honestly have no idea, I just found the image on google. LOL Sorry.
    I actually couldn't find unaju at the restaurants I went to to find them... I wonder if anyone has any recommendations in NY. :(
     
  11. Sep 23, 2014 #11

    apathetic

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    Great post and good follow up with the video! Makes me want to eat a nice Unaju now, need to see if I can find a decent place that serves around here :)
     
  12. Sep 23, 2014 #12

    Zwiefel

    Zwiefel

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    Absolutely fascinating Mari!
     
  13. Sep 23, 2014 #13

    cheflarge

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    Way cool, very informative. Thank you for doing this.
     
  14. Oct 15, 2018 #14

    GeneH

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    Thanks for the write up.
     
  15. Oct 15, 2018 #15

    Ochazuke

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    Thanks for the great post!

    I’ve actually seen my dad do similar things when sharpening (my dad is a Japanese chef). Like many chefs in many countries my father was never trained by a sharpener on how to sharpen - he just kinda did something that kinda worked. I think a lot of restaunteurs just do whatever works the fastest because they’re so busy and there’s so much other work to do than sharpening.


    I think that’s maybe also why professional sharpeners are still important over there: to help fix the problems in the knife caused by pro chefs! :p
     

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