In our Asian Inspirations Masterclass series, we share tips and tricks on cooking like a pro at home. Learn how to cut, slice and dice vegetables like a chef with our easy knife skills guide, then test out knife know-how on five Thai recipes.
1. Always start with a sharp knife. To sharpen your knife, hold the blade at a 45 degree angle against a steel, stroking the blade downward on each side.
2. Cut on a flat surface. This may sound obvious, but make sure your chopping board is stable on your work bench. Placing a slightly damp dishcloth under your board will prevent it slipping around.
3. Protect your fingertips by tucking your thumb and fingers under to form a claw shape with your hand. Use the flat part of your knuckles as a guide for the knife.
A popular choice for stir-fries, the julienne cut gives you thin matchsticks of vegetable. Start by squaring off your vegetable to create uniform blocks, then slice into 1-2mm- thick tiles. Stack these tiles and slice 1-2mm- thick again. You can vary the thickness depending on your chosen dish – batons are roughly finger-sized. Practice the julienne cut by making this Thai Northern curry.
Another cutting style you’ll use time and again is the dice. With vegetables such as carrots and zucchinis, start by following the steps for julienne above, then slice the matchsticks crossways to create small cubes. The smallest of these is the brunoise dice, resulting in tiny cubes of vegetables that are just 2mm square.
The easiest way to dice an onion is to slice it in half through the root. Peel and discard the skin. Place the cut side on the chopping board, then hold the knife parallel to the board and slice the onion horizontally at 2-4mm intervals, stopping before you reach the root. Now, make vertical cuts from top to bottom. Lastly, cut across the face of the onion from top to bottom to give you nice even pieces. Test out your new dicing skills on this pineapple fried rice recipe.
The chiffonade technique is used for thinly slicing leaves without damaging them. To chiffonade kaffir lime leaves, first slice out and discard the tough central vein. Stack 4-6 leaves, then roll them up into a tight bundle. Hold the bundle with one hand, taking care to tuck your fingers into a claw, then very finely slice through the bundle, pulling the knife through the leaves (horizontal action), not slicing down from above (vertical) – this is to ensure to don’t crush the delicate leaves. Master the chiffonade for this steamed fish cake or North Eastern beef salad.
Ideal for finely chopping herbs and garlic, the rock chop method means you rock the blade of the knife back and forth across the ingredients. Use a mezzaluna (literally meaning half-moon, this knife has a curved blade with handles on either end), or carefully hold the tip and handle of a round-blade knife, creating a rocking motion with your hands. Get your rock-chop on with this Thai glass noodle salad.
For more professional cooking tips at home, learn how to slice and dice ingredients for gujeoulpan with Korean chef Heather Jeong, or discover our 7 kitchen hacks for cooking like a pro.
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