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Chinese Cleaver / Cai dao / 桑刀 or 菜刀 – Carbon or Stainless Steel


Kamelion
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A 陈枝记 cleaver runs from a few hundred to a few thousand HK dollars (USD $1 = HKD $7.75).  For home use, a few hundred HK dollars should be OK.  Anything under HKD $200 probably isn't very good for long term use, but I could be wrong.  A 文武刀, suitable for both slicing and chopping, is a good compromise if you only buy one.  Just don't use it to chop big bones.  Of course, a 文刀 for slicing and a 武刀 for chopping is better, but less convenient for quick every day cooking. The blade should not be too small.  Even for the slicer, the blade should be at least 8cm tall, or the width of a palm. For the slicer, the shape of the blade should be a little curved. The surface of the blade should be smooth.

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I use only 2 main knives in the kitchen.

I use the long one for absolutely everything from slicing thin slices of tomatoes to carving roast beef. I use my cleaver for chopping through chicken bones and similar but really my main go to knife is my long one. They are both Sabatier Knives and they weren't cheap but I have had them for about 40 years. They get sharpened with a standard steel and have never let me down. I don't know what I would do with out them.

I use one other serrated knife occasionally for bread.

 

 

IMG_20170409_132750.jpg

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Sabatier makes good knives; excellent steel. I have one back in the U.S. (A French chef style, like yours.) I also like Henkels for western knives. I'll be you also have a paring knife or two, as do I.

 

Back in my 老家 I also have a fine Japanese Santoku with a 7 inch Damascus blade. It was a gift, much prized. Two or three years ago I bought a ceramic slicer by Kyocera, and have used it more than I thought I would. So easy to maintain.

 

But in China, cooking Chinese food every day of the week, I use my trusty Chinese 菜刀 without looking back.

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No, I don't use paring knives. For peeling vegetables I use a potatoe peeler. I really use my long knife for just about everything. I have lots of knives that I have been given/collected over the years and they just sit in the draw gathering dust.

 

Once you get use to the weight and swing of the knife like I have, it doesn't seem big or unwieldy, I can do very delicate things with it or chop a big white cabbage down the middle with no problems.

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Quote

No, I don't use paring knives.

 

Oh, that's "hard core," Shelley. I use a paring knife for small tasks. But I like the clarity you have brought to the subject; truly nearly all of my knives also live in a knife rack or drawer, and day to day I use the same one or two favorites over and over.

 

 

 

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Reality check: Yesterday I went to my neighborhood supermarket to buy a few staple items, while there, I swung by the knife sections just to see what was available in a general store whose aim is to serve the ordinary people, the common man, the 老百姓。 They had a large assortment of knives, probably 30 or 40 varieties. They ranged in price from 10 Yuan to a little over a hundred. Most were stainless steel 不锈钢 of one type or another. Here's a representative sample. More expensive knives tended to have more attractive handles.

 

IMG_20170410_120554.thumb.jpg.c4daee8afce9dcba0bbc0b70e653ff7c.jpgIMG_20170410_120543.thumb.jpg.610a8ae272721fa2d386c39c1d532a65.jpg   IMG_20170410_120557.thumb.jpg.ba2c45f45c0c7557f0ab488488ba4025.jpg

 

Sometimes the reverse side of the package contained information about the composition of the steel, as well as care and use instructions. They had both slicing knives 切片刀 and chopping knives 斩切刀。Some were marked as being particularly well suited to cutting bones. 斩骨刀。

 

IMG_20170410_121133.thumb.jpg.2cbdd3298d00acd4026687c95f3b5e53.jpgIMG_20170410_120925.thumb.jpg.72577fb85e3b5742e6a7e5de3fb5ce1a.jpg

 

Some few knives had innovative shapes, such as this one. Diagrams on the back explained the benefits.

 

IMG_20170410_121213.thumb.jpg.533df288dea859ead4eed253de95ed0e.jpgIMG_20170410_121226.thumb.jpg.f5baf10c44d709e34640375ef70b1526.jpg

 

This was the least expensive caidao 菜刀 that I saw, at only 9.90 Yuan. I also saw quite a few "starter sets" that bundled a caidao, a paring knife, and scissors together with a cutting board for between 50 and 100 Yuan.

 

IMG_20170410_121302.thumb.jpg.95c19f36c5e5eb729917a11c2c0f3a20.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This wasn't very surprising, since I did a similar quick look a few weeks ago at "entry-level" kitchen utensils in general that would be appropriate to someone who is newly arrived in China and wanted to be able to cook a little bit in a small, efficiency apartment kitchen. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53539-survivor-china-minimalist-dormitory-cooking/

 

A complete setup was available for such a small amount of money that one could afford to just to "try out" cooking at home and see whether or not one liked it. The investment was so small that the whole complement of tools could almost be considered disposable, or at least fully amortized after only a few uses.

 

I realize this has diverged from the original intent of this thread, namely selecting a high-quality, hand made Chinese cooking knife, but that subject seems to have run its course by now and I hope that this addition will not be considered disruptive.

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One thing I meant to say to the OP was I would recommend stainless steel, I used to have one that wasn't many years ago and it was a troublesome thing, I didn't mind having to take care of it but because it needed oiling, I found the dang thing would just slide out of my hands when I tried to use it on something a bit tough.Even when apparently wiped clean it still retained its oiliness and was slippery which was scary.

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On 4/9/2017 at 7:32 AM, Kamelion said:

 

Does anyone have a clue what the Chan Chi Kee knives kost in the Hong Kong store? I tried calling them today, but since no one spoke english the phone call ended in confusion …

 

 

This is their home page:

http://www.chanchikee.com/

 

(Haven't seen a <marquee> tag for years :mrgreen: It even has a <blink> tag but my browser ignored it :P)


Perhaps you can try emailing them.  There might be someone who can read and write English there, just not the one who answered your phone.

 

These are their Chinese knives with model numbers you can reference.

 

http://www.chanchikee.com/ChineseKnives.html

http://www.chanchikee.com/ColourHandle.html

 

Edited by dwq
marquee
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23 minutes ago, dwq said:

This is their home page:

http://www.chanchikee.com/

 

(Haven't seen a <marquee> tag for years :mrgreen: It even has a <blink> tag but my browser ignored it :P)


Perhaps you can try emailing them.  There might be someone who can read and write English there, just not the one who answered your phone.

 

These are their Chinese knives with model numbers you can reference.

 

http://www.chanchikee.com/ChineseKnives.html

http://www.chanchikee.com/ColourHandle.html

 

 

I tried emailing them more than once, but never received any answer …

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Kamelion -- I'll repeat a suggestion from a few days ago in case you overlooked it. Several members here live in Hong Kong and speak Cantonese as a native language. Perhaps one of them could help you out by making a phone call to the maker to inquire about the price of two or three of the knives in which you are most interested.

 

Suggest sending a private message to Flickserve, Skylee and TriplePicto. One of the administrators might have other suggestions as to who would be likely to help among members who live in Hong Kong. For that matter, someone could actually make a free call using Skype, QQ, or WeChat (Weixin) without much trouble.

 

Maybe even start a small new thread with your request in its title so it would catch more attention than is possible here, buried in an ongoing discussion. The forum has quite a few Cantonese speakers. If I were one of them, I would volunteer to come to your aid, but unfortunately I'm not able.

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1 hour ago, abcdefg said:

Kamelion -- I'll repeat a suggestion from a few days ago in case you overlooked it. Several members here live in Hong Kong and speak Cantonese as a native language. Perhaps one of them could help you out by making a phone call to the maker to inquire about the price of two or three of the knives in which you are most interested.

 

Suggest sending a private message to Flickserve, Skylee and TriplePicto. One of the administrators might have other suggestions as to who would be likely to help among members who live in Hong Kong. For that matter, someone could actually make a free call using Skype, QQ, or WeChat (Weixin) without much trouble.

 

Maybe even start a small new thread with your request in its title so it would catch more attention than is possible here, buried in an ongoing discussion. The forum has quite a few Cantonese speakers. If I were one of them, I would volunteer to come to your aid, but unfortunately I'm not able.

 

@abcdefg – I saw it, and I have a guy on it already. Just never came to respond to you. Thank you again!

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  • 5 weeks later...

So, dear forumists. I just got my delivery with the knives. Wanted to post some pictures, but would it maybe be better to start a new thread, labeled „Show your Cai Dao/Kitchen tools“ or something like that (including some of the posts from this thread)? What do you think?

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I'd be interested in seeing them, either here or in a new topic.

 

As for the stainless vs. carbon steel debate, I think it's a no brainer (in favor or carbon steel) if you're interested enough in knives to actually take the time to care for them properly. If you don't want to deal with frequent sharpening and especially if you are used to leaving your knives wet/stained for a long time before cleaning and drying them, then stainless steel is the better choice (as carbon is prone to rust). Probably oversimplified, but that's my opinion. My knives are all stainless (an extremely cheap Hong Kong made vegetable cai dao and a Global G-2 are my main knives), but I'm interesting in getting a carbon steel cleaver next time I go to China.

 

Speaking of which, and apologies for the slight derailing: Does anyone know if it would actually be possible to leave the country with a cleaver? I visited Shangri-La last year, and saw many a tempting cleaver for sale. However, my experience with the security check on trains and airports made me not buy one. (I had to explain why there was a metal ladle in my suitcase when I entered Suzhou Railway Station last year.) Would the security personnel actually allow you to enter a train station or airport with a huge knife in your luggage? I guess one could always send it home by mail, though.

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I will post it soon, absolutely.

 

24 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

Speaking of which, and apologies for the slight derailing: Does anyone know if it would actually be possible to leave the country with a cleaver? I visited Shangri-La last year, and saw many a tempting cleaver for sale. However, my experience with the security check on trains and airports made me not buy one. (I had to explain why there was a metal ladle in my suitcase when I entered Suzhou Railway Station last year.) Would the security personnel actually allow you to enter a train station or airport with a huge knife in your luggage? I guess one could always send it home by mail, though.

 

Well, I can just tell you that it worked out well for my friend. He checked in the cleavers, of course, but had no problem entering the airport with a bag full of six huge cleavers.

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5 hours ago, Kamelion said:

I just got my delivery with the knives. Wanted to post some pictures, but would it maybe be better to start a new thread, labeled „Show your Cai Dao/Kitchen tools“ or something like that (including some of the posts from this thread)? What do you think?

 

So glad you you actually got them and thanks for returning to give us a look. I'm anxious to see them. In my personal opinion, I think it would be best to start a new thread, including in it a link back to what went before.

 

I'm going to Hong Kong towards the end of this month, and am thinking about getting a top-shelf caidao too, inspired by your quest.

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