Yanagi or Yanagiba is a traditional Japanese knife with a long and thin blade, originally used to cut thin slices of raw fish – yes, just suitable for sushi!
Yanagiba in Italian means “willow-shaped llama” and this word identifies a classic knife of the Japanese culinary tradition, used for the preparation of sashimi.
It is perfect for filleting fish and for very thin cuts, but it is also increasingly used for the preparation of Western recipes and is a knife that can also be used for cutting large pieces of meat (especially for steaks) thanks to its long and thin blade.
It is a long-bladed knife, its shape makes it useful both for cutting fish and for supporting food.
Typical Yanagiba knives are between 240 and 360 mm in length and, according to some chefs, can be used for different tasks in the kitchen that require precision.
Some distinctive features of Yanagiba knives are a Japanese handle and a sharp chisel blade with an extremely small angle.
The expression “yanagiba” in Japan means “a willow”, since the blade of the knife resembles a willow leaf.
Some similar blades include:
- Takobiki, which is used to prepare sashimi in the areas surrounding Tokyo,
- Fugubiki is a thinner, flatter version of the Yanagiba used to prepare Fugu fish, the deadly puffer fish, a specialty in Japan that can only be prepared in a certain way to be edible.
The Japanese knife par excellence.
This razor-sharp model is ideal for sashimi and precise fish cutting.
The technique consists of sliding the blade over the thread so as to obtain a perfect slice with a single movement.
There is no sushi-Chef worthy of the name who does not have a wide range.
Yanagi is used to slice boneless fish fillets into sashimi and sushi toppings.
The graceful, long and thin blade is designed to cut the slices in one fell swoop, exerting minimal pressure on the fish meat to avoid stress and cell destruction.
With yanagi, different cutting techniques are used to enhance the aesthetics and flavors of the fish.
There are different variations of fish slicers that are all used in different situations and regions, however the yanagi style is the most used.
The yanagi kensaki, takobiki sakimaru and yanagi maguro perform similar functions, but are more elegant styles.
If space allows, longer blades will produce better results.
I recommend the length of 30 cm for this style and type of knife, because it has the optimal weight and length to slice the fish without damaging the meat.
Given the use is obviously a sharp knife only on one side.
This dish generally consists of raw fish cut into thin slices, accompanied by soy sauce, wasabi or other.
For its preparation, Japanese cooks use this knife with a cutting edge and handle of asymmetrical shape.
This sharpening is called Kataba, in Japanese.
The middle section of the blade is in fact trapezoidal in shape and the handle has the characteristic chestnut shape.
The cut of the fish slices must be carried out in a single pass, starting from the handle and arriving at the tip, to obtain a smooth surface that allows to maintain the organoleptic properties unaltered.
That is why this knife has a long and narrow blade.
It should also be noted that the flat surface of one side of the blade is actually concave (especially in medium/high range knives) to facilitate the detachment of the cut material and facilitate sharpening.
Each grinder must know how to respect the shape and angle of this symbol of the cuisine of the Rising Sun.
Type of typical Japanese handle shape
There are mainly three types of shapes:
- D-Shape or Chestnut
Clearly the handles are made of very different materials ranging from wood to synthetic materials, but we must distinguish the traditional method from the needs of industrial knives, to get to the creations of makers who indulge themselves by experimenting with innovative materials to give an even more impactful aesthetic or for specific customer requests.
In recent years, Japanese kitchen knives have won the hearts of Italian enthusiasts and chefs and have become one of the most requested, if not the most requested, items in our cutlery stores.
Is it just a fad? Certainly not to the point that even many Western makers have started to produce Japanese kitchen knives and some specializing in the realization of kitchen knives.
The customer who asks for these knives knows what he wants, looks for high quality and knows that they are often real jewels.
It is really a versatile knife and suitable for making precision cuts, the long blade allows very regular and clean through cuts.
A knife to have in your kitchen and in your set of knives.
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