The Nakiri Knife or "Vegetable Chopper"
A Nakiri knife, when translated, literally means "vegetable chopper." "Na" means "vegetable" and "Kiri" means chopper (Kiri is also my wifes name).
The Nakiri knife is also very close to the Usuba knife which is also used as a vegetable slicer however unlike the Usuba, the Nakiri is double beveled (i.e. sharpened on both sides). The Nakiri is therefore the chosen knife for vegetables consumers in the Western world.
What is the Origin of the Nakiri Knife?
Both the Nakiri and Usuba knives have been around a long time in Japan. Throughout the Edo era, from early 1600's to late 1860's it was illegal to consume a four legged animal. As a result the predominant diet was built around fish, rice and vegetables. This evolution still remains in Japan and the Nakiri knife is one of the most popular knives in Japan.
What is the Nakiri knife used for?
A high vegetable diet has seen the country have one of the longest living groups of people on planet earth. In Okinawa, the home of Karate Kids master, the average age is the highest in the word. This is mainly attributed to the vegetable food diet, the height of the location and the consistent exercise. The Nakiri knife is the main tool used when vegetables are the target and the knife itself is usually only used in the vegetable domain.
The Specs of the Nakiri Knife
The Nakiri knife has a deep belly on the knife and predominantly straight edge which is crafted for chopping rather than rolling. If you compare the speed of movement of a chopper versus a roller of a blade the chopper can move twice as fast. Side on the knife will also look a bit like a meat cleaver however the Nakiri is much, much lighter weight and has a much slimmer blade allowing it to cut through onions, tomatoes, carrots, etc much, much faster.
The length of the blade is usually about 2/3 the length of a Gyuto knife or chefs knife making it around 18cm (the same length as a Cadbury family chocolate block however not quite as wide). The details of our last blade is shown below.
How do you use a Nakiri Knife?
When thinking how you use the knife the important difference here is that the blade is flat. If you visualize a Nakiri versus a curved blade (like a chefs knife) in a cutting competition you will see the flat blade will hit the chopping board at the same time across an onion or carrot where as the curved blade will need you to roll the knife. This simple change, along with a slimmer blade is what makes the Nakiri the number one performer when it comes to vegetable chopping.
Over the past decade the Nakiri knife has become increasingly popular in the western world largely due to the evolution and popularity of the vegetarian and vegan diets.
That said, some people love the knife just to cut vegetables to accompany their BBQ. Either way the Nakiri knife is becoming more and more popular.