07 April 2010

Shun Santoku

The Bride: Then give me one of these.

Hattori Hanzo: They're not for sale.

The Bride: I didn't say "sell me" I said give me.

Hattori Hanzo: [laughs] Why should I help you?

The Bride: Because my vermin is a former student of yours. And considering the student, I'd say you have a rather *large* obligation.

[long pause. Hanzo walks to the window and writes Bill's name]

Hattori Hanzo: [in Japanese] You can sleep here. It will take me a month to make the sword. I suggest you spend it practicing. --Kill Bill: Vol. 1

My parents, despite my childhood history of self-inflicted head injuries and knife wounds, presented me with a nice knife about a month ago: the 5½" Shun Santoku. So a kitchen knife isn't exactly Hanzo steel, but something about a really well-crafted blade gets the testosterone flowing and weird ideas pop up in your head. Should I wear it in a sheath on my belt like a samurai? Or maybe I can rig up one of those between-the-shoulder-blades holders for the ultimate in stealth.

Let's break away from myth for a while. The santoku style knife has become popular in the United States in the past few years through the prominent use by various celebrity chefs on TV. This is my third such knife, and the first to have an eastern style handle on it. I use mine mostly for chopping non-root vegetables, and the wide blade helps transfer ingredients to the cooking pot or skillet. The grantons carved into the side of the blade help keep the slices from sticking, and overall the style is well suited for someone with smaller hands or arthritis and who might have trouble with a cleaver or chef's knife. I love it for prepping many vegetables and herbs, but when it comes to root vegetables, meat, or other tougher ingredients, I'll set aside the santoku for a sturdy German chef's knife.

In this photo you can see evidence of the Damascus steel process, in which metal is folded and pounded over and over again, then ground down to produce the blade. The effect is a woodgrain pattern. With the high quality of modern metallurgy, this is mostly done today for aesthetic effect. But I've always found it beautiful. Each knife ends up with a unique fingerprint, a set of swirls and loops that eventually identify it as your knife, not just another nameless tool in the wood block.


Samantha Dugan said...


We have a couple of Shun knives and they are wicked sharp, (the hubby will not use the Onion knife since he cut the hell out of his hand just cleaning the damn thing) and truly beautiful to look at. I'm voting for the shoulder blade holder....very bad ass indeed.

Benito said...


I've got a bunch of kitchen knives at home, some that I'm insanely proud of and some that I refuse to show to anyone. In the former category are pieces like my awesome handmade cleaver and in the latter are certain weird, poorly manufactured pieces from the 1970s that are practically falling apart.

Without any formal training or routine restaurant experience, my knife skills are not great. But I do work at it, and if I've got some potatoes or onions that have gone slightly bad, I'll chop them up in different cuts just for the practice.

And yes, it's been four and a half years since I sliced off the top of my thumb while making Thanksgiving dinner. ;)


Allen said...

I have added butterfly bandaids, compression packs and a tourniquet to the kitchen supplies next to the knives.

Benito said...


Probably not a bad idea, though I haven't had anything worse than a papercut in the kitchen since that glorious Thanksgiving.


Brett Sutcliffe said...

Japanese kitchen knife always the best quality though a lit bit expensive. I don't know this idea is good or not though.