Chinese Cleaver Knife & Mallet

Cleaver Knife and Mallet

This is one of the most incredibly useful combinations you can have in your kitchen. Want to cut a catfish into steaks? Want to cut spare ribs exactly 1-1/2 inches long? Want to cut a chicken into "serving pieces"? Just place the razor sharp edge of your cleaver knife exactly where you want the cut and drive it through with a firm whack from the mallet. You get exactly the cut you want where you want it.

I once cut an entire pork loin (22 pounds) into pork chops this way, but that's really pushing it and I'd recommend having the butcher saw it up for you - but it can be done.

Of course you can also use the cleaver knife for the intended purpose, cutting stuff up for Chinese stir fries - but when the recipe calls for "cut Chicken into serving pieces", get out the mallet. You aren't a Chinese chef born with a cleaver knife in your hand, so if you try it freehand you're going to make a mess.

Some enthusiasts of Chinese cooking will insist this is the only knife you need. Indeed it is, for Chinese cooking, because Chinese style cutting is forced to be as it is by use of the cleaver knife. I consider this knife rather clumsy even for Chinese prep, and of course it's pretty much useless for Western style prep.

The photo specimen was purchased about 40 years ago in Los Angeles' Old Chinatown (officially named "New Chinatown" as the original was plowed under to build Union Station in the mid 1930s). This was well before Nixon went to China. In those days cleaver knives imported from China (through Hong Kong or from Taiwan) were incredibly primitive looking and probably of poor quality metal. The one I bought was made in Massachusetts of the very finest carbon steel, and it has served extremely well.

I have found this cleaver knife is still available, and I recommend it highly. It is the Dexter-Russell S5198 8" Chinese Chef's Knife - Traditional Series.

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