This year’s Met Gala theme — Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons — got us thinking: There’s such great Japanese-made stuff worth knowing about (much of it that we’ve even written about before), so why not take the occasion to go really big on Japan? From the meticulously crafted to the intuitively designed to the wonderfully weird, welcome to Made in Japan Week on the Strategist. Below, Yuji Haraguchi, chef of the Japanese-breakfast-by-day, ramen-by-night spot, Okonomi/Yuji Ramen in Williamsburg, on his favorite sharpening stone.
A lot of chefs I know are really into good knives, but no one talks about sharpening stones. No matter how expensive your knife is to begin with, it will become dull, and you will inevitably have to sharpen it. In my case, Japanese cuisine is so ingredient-driven, so I need a really sharp knife to make each element look nice and precise. The King Two Sided Sharpening Stone is the best, most-multipurpose one out there — it’s the one that every kitchen store in Japan sells.
The dark side of the stone has a medium-grit surface that is perfect for everyday use — like when you are cutting meat or vegetables. The other, lighter side is for when you want to really polish your knife and get those really fine cuts. I’ll use it for sashimi, and I always get this perfect, clean finish. Both sides are made out of King stones from Osaka, an incredibly rough stone, which makes for a sharper knife. What is also unique about King stone is that as you sharpen on it, the stone will erode slightly, its grit mixing with the residue from your knife. That powder that remains on the stone will create a smooth surface, which actually makes your knife easier to sharpen with every subsequent use. With other types of stones, like ceramic ones, the more you sharpen on it, the more the knife and the stone will just wear out.
Also, it’s designed to be thicker and taller than other stones so that when you are sharpening a knife, your knuckle isn’t constantly hitting the counter — there’s enough height there. The thickness means it’ll last much longer, too. Over time, most sharpening stones become thinner and thinner until they are unusable, but if you’re starting with as thick a stone as this one, you’re going to have it for a pretty long time.
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