Discover the difference between Japanese and Western kitchen knives – and discover Koi Knives, beautiful, South Australian-made excellence.
I know I have something of a fondness for fine kitchen gadgets and have talked some of them up on these pages, but I’ve always known how indispensable excellent kitchen knives are. I’ve been using an entirely reliable set of German knives for many years now, but was recently given two Koi kitchen knives to have a play with. Total kitchen bling, these beautiful knives are produced right here in Adelaide, using imported Japanese blades with finely crafted aged Australian timber and resin handles.
I know Japanese kitchen knives have become enormously popular amongst chefs and experienced cooks, and I’ve often wondered what the differences might be between them and Western knives. With two gorgeous precision knives to get to know, and the opportunity to chat with a knife professional, here was my chance to find out.
Two Adelaide friends, Ramon Elzinga and Shannon Dolman, are the guys behind Koi kitchen knives. Ramon has always had an artistic interest in Japan, at least in part borne of stories his parents had shared from their time living there. Shannon had experience working with his father in the family spring factory – an incredibly useful asset as their combined interest began to hone in on 😉 knives, giving him access to the practical side of knife manufacture.
They began the business as a hobby in 2018, experimenting with different steels from many international regions, but quickly focused on the steel used in Japanese knives. The Japanese use steel with a higher percentage of carbon, making it more than twice as hard as that used in Western knives. The practical advantages of this are obvious – a harder blade is able to be worked to a much finer edge. This makes for a sharper knife, and a knife that will hold that sharp edge for longer.
Japanese cooks use kitchen knives differently from Western cooks. They tend to use chopping cuts, making each cut in one motion, instead of the rolling method more commonly found in other countries, and each knife is purpose-designed for a specific task. All cooks need sharp knives, but Japanese cooks require their knives to be utterly razor sharp to facilitate the deliberate and precise chopping techniques employed in their kitchens.
The blades for Koi kitchen knives are all imported from Japan, but fine-tuned and sharpened right here in Adelaide. The handles are made from aged South Australian timbers and they select from more than 90 different woods, some of which have been deliberately exposed to ants. Ant eat away at the softer parts of the timber, leaving the hardest bits, creating interesting channels in which the jewel-coloured resin is poured. Each knife is superbly beautiful, and each is totally unique.
Ramon very generously gave me one of the Koi Gyuto chefs knives and the Bunka utility knife and I can say, hand on heart, that I’ve never used kitchen knives so exceptional in my life.
Koi knives are a joy to hold – but the two I have couldn’t be more different. The Bunka is perfectly weighted and hefty, making chopping hard vegetables a breeze. The Gyuto is much lighter making it a perfect knife for more generalised slicing and cutting. The blades on each are wickedly sharp, and both are the most beautiful knives I’ve ever seen, with a bit of bling on the handles and extensive, intricate detailing on the blades.
At $295 each, I strongly suspect that these knives are underpriced. I’ve been so taken with them that I went online and ordered more over the weekend – when it comes to my preferred kitchen knives, I think I’m turning Japanese.