MA-KK-210, MAC Kakuga Usuba knife. Worth Purchase?

Discussion in 'The Kitchen Knife' started by gstriftos, Sep 17, 2018.

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  1. Sep 17, 2018 #1

    gstriftos

    gstriftos

    gstriftos

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    Hi all,

    Long time lurker so essentially my first.

    I came across a stock clearance of MA-KK-210, MAC Kakuga Usuba, priced at 90 euro (original price 289 euro) but although it is stated as MAC, I could not find any info of it on MAC's websites.

    Steel is described as <<white Japanese Yasuki High Carbon steel (hard and soft), two-ply>>, figure it is HITACHI white steel?

    I know that 90 euro is considered peanuts in knifenuts world but my budget is tight. It caught my attention as a bargain to enter J-knives so had to ask if anyone is familiar with that.

    My collection so far consists of some budget knives from Wusthof, Kai and ..IKEA.
    Also a cheap Wusthof 400/2000 combo stone.

    Home cook, mainly using pinch grip and prefer thrust cut (at least I try to)

    All in all this will be my first attempt to serious knife territory and I am wondering should I pull the trigger on this or save up for a gyuto (like Kaeru) ?
    Regarding stones I am considering major upgrade, probably with Naniwa's, but that is not my issue now (will make new thread when time comes).

    What can be the negatives of an Usuba?
    (In my eyes single bevel knives seem easier to sharpen on stones but I may be terribly mistaken).

    P.S. I have not posted the link to the site selling since I don't know if it is allowed by rules.
    Kindly tell me if needed to do so for your reference.
     
  2. Sep 18, 2018 #2

    Qapla'

    Qapla'

    Qapla'

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    How do you intend to use the knife?
    An usuba is extremely specialized to Japanese cuisine. You don't need one unless you're cooking up some Japanese haute-cuisine (e.g. working in a sushi restaurant). If you're buying one from the perspective of an enthusiast, that's a different story, i.e., experiment with cool things and do what makes you happy.

    If you just want your first serious high-quality Japanese knife and you cook mostly Greek food, you'd likely be better off overall with a gyuto. (I'm assuming Greek since your location says you're in Athens.)

    Hitachi Yasuki steel could be anything from SK-5 (a few notches below Yellow-3) to Ginsanko or Blue Super. If you don't know, maybe you could email the manufacturer?
     
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  3. Sep 18, 2018 #3

    gstriftos

    gstriftos

    gstriftos

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    Location:
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    Qapla' I am aware that usubas are specialized to Japanese cuisine and no I don't work at sushi restaurant but from time to time I do prepare sushi for me and wife.
    Indeed I am in Greece but I am versatile at cooking ( lately attempting ramens and more Asian style) and a bit unorthodox in Greek cuisine (love to fine chop and small dice veggies for example) so I was intrigued by having a knife specialized at these tasks. Protein wise main use will be chicken breast fine slicing and big square chops of boneless beef or pork (for stews)*. Fish so far I can manage with current set up but in general here we prefer fish ''intact''.
    Usuba seems to fit this bill (if I am not mistaken) and one other factor is (if I have figured correctly) single bevel knives have better food release (something I am interested in).

    The link to the knife is : https://www.kuechenmesser.de/MA-KK-210-MAC-Kakuga-Usuba-Messer-210-mm-Klingenlaenge , in case it makes it easier to get a little more info by someone else (just saw a link to this store in another thread so I assume it is allowed).

    *I definitely need a boning knife too but that is something other (looking for a decent priced honesuki-used one once and loved it. Far more versatile and precise compared to any western style deboning flex knives I ever used).

    Honestly it did not cross my mind to contact MAC..
     
  4. Sep 18, 2018 #4

    Ochazuke

    Ochazuke

    Ochazuke

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    Single bevel knives aren’t *necesarily* difficult to maintain but they can be tricky if you don’t have experience with them, especially considering the ura side. Plus I found them to be less forgiving to users in terms of maintenance than sashimi bocho.

    But for that cheap who cares? Use it hard and learn what works and what doesn’t so that if and when you move on to other, possibly nicer single bevel knives, you’ll have more background in to what you’re getting yourself in to. We all have to learn on something!
     
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  5. Sep 19, 2018 #5

    Ochazuke

    Ochazuke

    Ochazuke

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    I forgot to answer the negatives of usuba! It translates to "thin knife" -- so it doesn't take much abuse. There are many chefs who only use it for in-hand and decorative cutting (though I think this may be more of "rule" to most non-Japanese users). In Japan you will occasionally see people use it to do some on-board work, but they definitely will not drive it as hard as a cleaver or gyuto. I think for your money if you wanted a better all-purpose vegetable knife a nakiri is a better option as you can use them much harder and do more tasks (a double bevel, by nature, is more robust). If you're looking for a good learning knife for single bevels though, I stand by my earlier answer.

    I was forced to learn both cutting and maintenance techniques on an usuba for years. While I hated it at the time and wanted to move on to more "glamourous" knives, I really appreciate what I learned. It's made me overall a better chef and better owner of traditional Japanese knives.
     
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  6. Sep 19, 2018 #6

    Alex M.S.

    Alex M.S.

    Alex M.S.

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    Usually I would not recommend an usuba to people looking to gain experience but in your case I would go for it. If it’s readily affordable to you and your willing to be patient why not go for it?

    Just keep in mind usubas are delicate and precise knives that need a certain push cutting technique to master. As you say you use pinch grips mostly, the usuba will feel like learning how to use a knife all over and then some. As a professional I use it only for specific tasks like chives, scallions, herb chiffonades, radish slices etc. If I need to cut anything hard like a potato or carrot I definitely do not reach for my usuba.

    As far as sharpening learning on a single bevel might actually not be a daunting as you think.
     
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  7. Sep 19, 2018 #7

    gstriftos

    gstriftos

    gstriftos

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    Thank you both for the input!
    Nakiri's crossed my mind but I would prefer a knife over 200mm (are Nakiri's up to this size?) for long strips of veggies. Also when someone here mentions Nakiri the majority call it rubbish (so there is got to be a reason for that).
    Both you answers surprised me in terms of Usuba robustness. I understand it can't be cleaver like strength but I thought it was a general veggie knife (or at least it is sold as such) so I was expecting something similar to gyoto.
    Now this is a bummer. Cooking includes a lot of carrots (strips or diced), onions, shallots, potatos e.t.c.
     
  8. Sep 19, 2018 #8

    Ochazuke

    Ochazuke

    Ochazuke

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    210 mm nakiri do exist, but they’re kinda hard to find so you’ll probably end up paying more than you want if you find one. You should probably be able to do most of what you want with 180mm and those are pretty common and not too expensive. I think nakiri are really great knives though! It’s actually one of the more common knives I reach for when I cook at home because it’s a very robust vegetable knife. They might have a bad reputation because they’re really popular with grandmas instead of “pro users”, but most grandmas cook really well so it can’t be that bad! :)

    I think the big issue is that usuba are designed to optimize sharpness for that knife shape, even at the expense of things other aspects (because it’s expected for a user to sharpen and maintain it regularly). The first time somebody without a background in it uses an usuba, they’re almost guaranteed to put a chip in it. It’s designed to the incredibly detailed work in kaiseki ryori (look it up if you don’t know it!) so it’s made for precision and delicate work, not for really hard,
    robust work. Because the edge is so thin it’s really easy to damage it. On the other hand it’s really hard to damage nakiri.

    If you want a really functional knife, I think nakiri is the better bet. If you want to be challenged and struggle like never before then usuba is a great choice. If you get usuba you’ll have to learn different cutting technique as well as good maintenance habits and even basic edge repair. At the end of your first usuba, it probably won’t even be an usuba anymore but I guarantee you will have learned an awful lot! :p
     
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  9. Sep 21, 2018 #9

    btbyrd

    btbyrd

    btbyrd

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    I wouldn't bother with a usuba as a first good knife. Usuba aren't really general purpose vegetable knives. Given their geometry (single sided, large bevel) they tend can steer through softer product and wedge through harder product. They're a knife type that co-evolved with a specific cuisine, and if you're not going to be cooking in that cuisine, they are of limited use value. Historically, the usuba was a single-bevel adaptation of the nakiri, which itself is the Japanese take on the Chinese cleaver.

    The OP doesn't even have a nice gyuto yet. Buying a usuba as his first nice knife seems like a mistake. If he's looking for a sub-$100 versatile vegetable knife in the +200mm range, a classic CCK cleaver would be a great choice.
     
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