Japan's Exquisite Cutlery: Shun Kitchen Knives

March 24, 2021

Dining in a restaurant is one of the fastest ways to get a gist of Japanese culture. Through minimalist plating techniques, spacing patterns, and food presentation, culinary experts recognize the proficiency of Japanese chefs in the art of food decoration.

Beyond this set of principles, Japan also takes pride in how they are represented based on the kitchenware they use. Their style of food preparation extends to choosing the appropriate kitchen utensils like knives that allow them to exercise intricate cuts on vegetables and fish.

One of their prized possessions is the Shun knife which has been utilized since the ancient Japanese era and cultivated the Japanese recipes that we still savor today.

Given this brief background, this article aims to discuss the origins of Shun kitchen knives and how Shun cutlery can be used to create numerous dishes that you can serve at home regardless of the occasion.

Shun Knives History

Shun kitchen knives originated from the Kai Corporation, which had its humble beginnings manufacturing and selling pocket knives in Seki, Japan's ancient sword-making capital. Its founder, Saijiro Endo, established this company in 1908 and began producing various types of cutlery throughout the 20th century, including the Shun kitchen knife.

To expand their market, they introduced Shun cutlery to western countries in 2002 and advertised its authenticity by making Shun cutlery products only in Seki. Currently, Kai manufacturers have distributed to over 30 countries, exporting, importing, and selling 10,000 varied types of cutting knives, kitchen utensils, cosmetic accessories, and surgical instruments. Their popular products under the Shun series range from Classic, Classic Pro, Dual-Core, Fuji, Hikari, Hiro, Kaji, Kanso, Premier, Shun Blue, Sora, and more.

Kai products take inspiration from traditional culture and the skills of ancient Japanese swordsmiths. These historically-driven tools are then reinforced by exceptional and state-of-the-art technology. Japan has high regard for its blades and strongly believes that its components should be crafted by only the most skilled artisans. It is not just a dining tool for them but an artifact representing their way of life.

The Japanese word “shun” translates to “moon” in English, referring to a precise moment in a year when foods are at their best quality. For instance, finding the “shun” in fruits and vegetables meant choosing the freshest ripened harvest during a particular season. So if you are looking for the best cooking knives to complement your Japanese dishes, you’ll want to start learning the legendary secrets to Shun knives.

Asian kitchen

Using Shun Knives

Just like any kitchen appliance and equipment, getting the most out of Shun knives compels you to learn cutting techniques, ideal cutting surfaces, the cleaning process, and the safest storage space for your kitchen and knife.

How Should I Cut?

Keep in mind that Shun culinary knives are designed for smooth slicing motions. You never perform an up-and-down chopping method with this particular knife in hand. Picture yourself cutting wood with a handsaw and apply this process with Shun kitchen knives—deliberately pushing the knife away from your body and back again as you slice down.

Before anything, make sure that your fingers are safely positioned away from the sharp blade as a safety precaution. If you do not have a professional background in cooking, we advise that you slow down and learn a few effortless chops to get used to cutting with a Shun knife. Once you have gained the ability and confidence to slice precisely, slowly increase your speed.

Besides that, be sure that you are not doing any of the following with a Shun knife:

  • Crushing bones or joints
  • Cutting through frozen food
  • Slicing thicker and tougher rinds

The best thing you could do to address these concerns is to use a classic meat cleaver to split bones or have a customized Western cook’s knife sharpened to a 22-degree angle on each side for slicing harder ingredients like watermelon, pineapples, and pumpkins. This way, you can deliver accurate and proper slicing procedures.

Preferable Cutting Surface

When keeping your knives sharp, you need to be critical in terms of the surface you choose to cut on. Having a softwood chopping board such as the Hinoki type lets you retain the sharp edge substantially longer. On the other hand, we discourage that you cut on tiles, ceramics, marble, granite, or any synthetic glass boards as it can significantly damage your Shun kitchen knives.

Cleaning Shun Knives

Knowing how to sanitize your work area, including your kitchenware, is a crucial step to protecting and investing in Shun kitchen knives. All you have to do is hand wash your set of knives with a dishwashing soap; avoid using soaps that contain citrus extracts or bleach since it can cause the formation of rust on your Shun blades. Immediately rinse and wipe your knife, then use your extra time to dry out any water or moisture off your Shun knife.

Remember that your knife handle is made up of natural wood, which can shrink in dry climates and swell in humid ones. If you notice a change of color in the handle, it is a natural process that transpires over time and not a product defect. Wood undergoes a physical change due to oxidation, exposure to sunlight, or direct contact with oil and sweat from the human skin.

Storage and Safekeeping

When you are done with your task and have decided to clean up and set your Shun kitchen knives aside, it is best to store them in a sheath, cutlery wooden block, in-drawer knife tray, or knife case. This practice will prolong the life of your Shun knives and prevent their properties from degrading.

With this basic guide to using and keeping Shun kitchen knives, you can see that they don’t differ much from standard knives in terms of maintenance. What comes next? Explore some of the world’s finest cuisines to attest to the quality of your Shun kitchen knives!

Shun Kitchen Knives and Food

Shun culinary knives are attributed to being great kitchenware or dining utensils for fruits, veggies, unfrozen meat, poultry, and fish. As the chef, you must have the mindset of keeping your slices smooth and clean rather than the work being strenuous and taxing. This should not limit your options as to what kinds of meals, dishes, or snacks you can serve. 

Below are some food ideas you can try recreating in the comfort of your homes with a Shun cutlery knife:

bacon lettuce tomato
  1. Classic BLT Sandwich

Indulge in a fancy and light snack with only four main ingredients: bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato! You’ll surely enjoy the sound of crispy greens crunching as you cut them into smaller pieces to join the bacon strips. Lightly clap against your chopping board while your blades sink into the cherry red skin and reveal a fresh juicy pulp.

classic ratatouille
  1. Layered Ratatouille

From Southern California’s abundance of fruits and vegetables to your home-grown zucchini, squash, red pepper, and eggplant, this recipe makes for a satisfying and healthy dish. Before seasoning this scrumptious combination with minced garlic, onions, and other spices in a bed of tomato puree, thinly cut through your plump veggies with a Shun knife and readily toss them in a clean bowl for a colorful arrangement later on.

rhubarb galette
  1. Rhubarb Galette

Satisfy your sweet tooth cravings with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on this baked treat. It’s not a rhubarb galette without a pound of garden rhubarbs, sliced ½-inch thick by a Shun Knife. Assemble your tasty ingredients and pop your masterpiece in a 375-degree preheated oven. Gently press your Shun knife against the golden brown pie crust, and you’ll get clean bite-sized pieces of the crusty cake!

salmon and tuna sushi
  1. Salmon and Tuna Sushi

Avoid the long takeout lines and make your own sushi rolls and salmon or tuna nigiri at home. A Shun knife comes in handy when preparing this Japanese favorite, often consisting of sushi rice, seaweed, wasabi, and raw fish. Imagine swiftly cutting your fillet down and in the center for two equal strips of the roll, or slicing for about 30-45 degrees in angle and getting the 3-inch length, 1-inch width, and ¼-inch thickness of the raw fish for the nigiri. Shun knives are built for the accuracy of these dimensions.

  1. Ravioli

Nothing tastes better than homemade pasta that encapsulates meat and cheese while drenched in a simmering flavorful tomato sauce. Using a Shun knife, you can relish the connection of your ingredients by chopping them into specific proportions and stuffing them into the dough as fillings. Garnish your meal with some Shun knife-minced basil and grated or store-bought parmesan cheese to your heart’s content. 

Did this article help you in any way? Let us know your insights in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!

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