[thechat] Handling a knife like a pro (was: Cooked carrots)

Madhu Menon webguru at vsnl.net
Thu Feb 27 14:17:01 CST 2003

At 07:37 PM 27-02-03, Alan McCoy wrote:
>Really. We just got a new set of really nice cutlery and I'd love to learn
>to handle a knife like the pros...or at least like Elektra in Daredevil.

There was once this 13 year old boy who had just got his first wok from UK
thanks to his kind father. The boy, a total novice, was nevertheless eager
to learn the fine art of Chinese cooking. Study hard he did, devouring
books on Oriental cooking and watching every cookery show on TV to learn
from the masters. A show that he found particularly fascinating was "Yan
can cook" by chef Martin Yan. He was spellbound by Yan's ability to wield
his cleaver so effortlessly, as he minced garlic in under 10 seconds and
sliced through vegetables without even looking at them.

The boy told himself, "I must learn how to do that". He summoned the
courage to get himself a Chinese cleaver and practise. Heeding chef Yan's
advice, he learnt to put fear out of his mind, work on the co-ordination
between both his hands, and use the Chinese "curved knuckles" technique to
avoid cutting himself. Time passed, as day turned into night, and night
into day, and a year or two had gone by. By now, the boy, slightly wiser
had realised the most important things to remember while using a cleaver:

1) Keep your knife as sharp as possible. The duller the blade, the more the
chances of it slipping and cutting yourself. Also use a knife that's got
some weight to it.

2) Practise, practise, practise. Start with long, softer vegetables like
spring onions (scallions), beans, cabbage etc. They will offer little
resistance, which will build your confidence.

3) Get your co-ordination right. You need to move the food with one hand
while chopping with the other. Your free hand should move out of the way
before the knife blade comes down.

4) Things are cut using a forward sliding motion, not by pushing down
vertically. Chefs chopping fast may appear like they're just going
tap-tap-tap, but they are actually just sliding it forward and back real fast.

5) Never try and cut something spherical or otherwise rounded in shape. The
chance of a novice's knife slipping and taking a digit off is increased
greatly. Take onions, for instance. If you cut them in their regular shape,
you'll be lucky to keep your fingers. Instead, try and make the bottom a
flat surface. For onions, slice them in half, place them on the chopping
board flat side down, and then slice them.

6) Practise in slow motion first. Imagine yourself in a VCR perpetually
stuck on "slow mode". The food will still get cut thanks to the blade and
the motion, and you will be able to practise patting your head and rubbing
your tummy at the same time... er, moving the food and slicing through it
at the same time.

7) Do not be afraid. If you are afraid, you will be nervous. If you are
nervous, you will slip on technique. Do not let the sharpness of the blade
intimidate you. It is a weapon in your hands; YOUR weapon. You will use it
to destroy food to tiny slivers.

8) Keep your knife sharp. Yes, it bears repeating.

9) Always store your knife in a wooden block to protect its blade. This
also prevents it from accidently running into your hand while you feel your
way around the kitchen.

10) Your chef's knife is not the Sai that Elektra uses. Don't try stupid
things like trying to twirl it. ;)

The boy, you ask? Well, 14 years later, he can mince garlic with his eyes
open in 5 seconds, and with eyes shut in about 10 seconds. He also wonders
how he has not cut himself even once in all these years. For his amusement,
he scares friends by showing them his cleaver and demonstrating speed
chopping. No, he's never taken a formal cookery class.

In the next installment: Chinese "curved knuckles" chopping - what it is
and how it saves your fingers.



<<<   *   >>>
Madhu Menon
Internet User Experience Consultant
e-mail: webguru at vsnl.net   |   Yahoo messenger: cold_logic

Content * Interfaces * Usability * Net Strategy

More information about the thechat mailing list