The joy of S-S-Santoku

T’other week I finally bought something I’ve been lusting after for months and months – a 7 inch Santoku knife with a hollow ground edge (by Wusthof Trident). It’s a Japanese-style knife, kind of like a cross between a cleaver and a chef’s knife. Very very sharp, cuts beautifully and makes every job so easy, and is sensationally balanced. Lust has flowered into true love.

My first – and one true – test when I got my baby home was to finely slice a tomato. Fine as in, the width of a 5 cent piece. Tomatoes are my bète noir, I have to admit, shameful as it is. I simply cannot cut tomatoes without a serrated or Victorinox knife without squishing the damn thing to bits. Which is okay if that’s the effect I’m after; I’m basically fucked if I want to make a pretty pretty caprese salad (slices of perfectly-ripe, preferably home-grown tomatoes, layered in a spiral pattern on a plate interspersed with slices of drippy mozzarella and fresh basil leaves, dressed with the most virginal of olive oils – you can add slices of a really excellent salami or coppa too if you like).

So, the Santoku sliced through that roma tomato so sweetly I could have cried. Bliss. Next up was prep for the night’s dinner; slicesliceslice that sirloin steak paper-thin, almost transparent, ditto a bunch of garlic, ginger and chilli, plus some red capsicum and spring onions. First step, heated the wok until smoking, added about a teaspoon of oil and flash fried the sirloin strips a handful at a time, so they were charred at the edges but meltingly tender right through. Then I did a quick veggie stir-fry with the chilli, garlic, ginger, red pepper, spring onions and a few handfuls of bean sprouts, all very quick and crisp, about 2 minutes total. Meanwhile I cooked a slab of fine rice noodles, drained and rinsed under iced water and tossed until they were as dry as possible. Tuxedo got the tricky task of tearing off lettuce leaves and placing them on a plate.

I plated the steak strips, veggie stir fry, rice noodles and lettuce all separately and we dug in. Assembly: take one lettuce leaf, place a small amount of rice noodles slightly below-centre, top with vegetables and sauce, then a few steak strips. Roll up and eat. The first few attempts were pretty messy (exceedingly, in my case) but we soon got the hang of it. Very much inspired by Vietnamese street-food (see also recipes like Sang Choy Bao) and oh-so-damn-good. One of those “recipes” where the quality of ingredients, and speed of cooking is key.

Anyways, the Santoku performed like a dream. So happy! While shopping for it (at Perth chef-y store Cut It Out – great shop, fantastically helpful knowledgeable staff) I also bought a new bib apron (in heavy denim, ankle length on me), a black chef’s cap – think fez, a few knife guards, and a book on knife sharpening so I can hone (argh! incoming unintentional pun!) my technique. I have a beauty of a Global waterstone, so my other knives are going to get a shock. Wheeee! Sharp shiny objects! My next purchase is going to be one of those groovy magnetic knife rails, that you screw into the kitchen wall and place your knives on. Much more hygienic, and kinder to tres expensif knives than blocks.

However before the knife rail, we’re off to buy a BBQ – I know, horrors, we don’t have one! – I’ve got my eye on a Rinnai Gourmet 6-burner mmmmm mmmmmmm. Anyone for steaks, kebabs, tandoori roast chicken and booze this weekend? (okay so it’s currently pissing down and the weather has gone all to shit due to Cyclone Monica but it’s not going to keep me from red meat and shiraz)


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