Nakiri Vs Bunka: What’s The Difference?

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The Nakiri and the Bunka are cousins in the sense that they are practically the same in so many aspects except for one very obvious detail: the tip.

The former has a flat tip parallel to the heel while the latter has a sharply angled, falling tip that creates the ‘reverse tanto’. It’s that sharp end that makes this a more multi-purpose tool than the vegetable cleaver.

There are over a dozen different kinds of Japanese knives, some traditional and task-specific while others are more modern and multi-purpose.

To know which deserves a spot in your wall magnet, read on:

Nakiri Bunka
Origin Japan Japan
Category Modern Modern
Function Vegetable chopper, primarily Vegetable chopper, primarily
Kinds of Food to Cut Vegetables

 

Vegetables

Can be used on meat and fish

Blade Profile Wide and Rectangular

 

Wide and medium-length,

with reverse tanto tip

Handle Form Round, Octagonal, Flat/Straight Round, Octagonal

What Is A Nakiri?

A nakiri is a small traditional Japanese knife that is supposed to be used for vegetables.

It has a blade that measures about 5-7 inches, depending on the model.

The nakiri is known for its rectangular squared-off blade that resembles a cleaver but is much smaller.

This knife is known for having a very flat edge and is underused in a lot of Western kitchens.

Since the edge is flat, it is meant for chefs to utilize and push and pull motion with their vegetables as opposed to a rocking chop motion.

The entire flat edge comes into contact with the chopping board all at the same time, which allows you to get very straight and precise cuts on your vegetables.

So, if you want to try using a push and pull motion when chopping vegetables, or you’re looking to get uniform julienne cuts, a nakiri might benefit your kitchen.

Related: The best nakiri knives for your money

What Is A Bunka?

The bunka is a multi-purpose Japanese knife that used to be as popular as the santoku.

However, nowadays, it mostly takes a backseat in the kitchen.

While it isn’t as popular as it once was, the bunka is still a very great piece to have in just about any kitchen.

It has a wide rectangular blade with a triangular tip, which makes it a very versatile tool.

The wide blade allows you to cut up vegetables and other ingredients with ease, while the tip can come in handy when slicing meat and fish.

So, if you need a new multi-purpose knife in your kitchen and are willing to try out something new, the bunka could be just the right pick for you.

Nakiri Vs. Bunka – Which Is The Better Fit For Your Kitchen?

Design

Both of these knives sport rectangular blades, which is just one of the reasons they are commonly mentioned in the same light.

However, while they might look similar at first glance, they are actually very different.

A nakiri has a small rectangular blade designed to cut vegetables.

And while it might seem like it can handle heavier ingredients, the blade is very hard and brittle, making it prone to chips.

This is why nakiri knives aren’t recommended for meat and other tough ingredients.

A bunka, on the other hand, has a larger blade and has a triangular tip.

The triangular tip comes in handy when slicing meat and fish, as it allows you to glide through the ingredients with ease.

And since the blade is also flat and long, it can handle chopping, slicing, and dicing vegetables as well.

Construction

A traditional Japanese knife will be forged in construction.

When it comes to modern kitchen cutlery, the construction varies greatly depending on the model and brand you’re shopping from.

However, if you’re looking for a good Japanese knife, it’s best to find one that is forged.

These blades will be forged from a single piece of steel before being treated and honed for the kitchen.

However, it isn’t uncommon to find Japanese kitchen knives with a Damascus construction.

The Damascus technique involves a hard steel core that is then layered with multiple thin sheets of steel and hammered.

The number of layers varies depending on the craftsman making the knife, but you can find models that have between 64-110 different layers of steel.

This technique also results in a beautiful pattern on the face of the blade, which is something that is sought-after by a lot of culinary enthusiasts.

Another construction technique used with these knives is a tsuchime finishing method.

This involves hammering the blade to create little dimples and indentations.

This gives the blade a beautiful and unique aesthetic, but it also ensures that no food sticks to the knife when you’re cutting.

Every brand and company will have a different method of constructing their knives, so it’s always best to do the proper research before choosing one for your kitchen.

Handle

The handle on these knives will vary depending on the brand and model you buy, and there are even some that come with Western-style handles!

However, traditionally a bunka or nakiri should have a traditional Japanese handle.

There are many different variations on this handle, and they come in a variety of shapes.

The most common ones are d-shaped handles, octagonal handles, or round handles.

For those who aren’t used to them, these knives might feel uncomfortable at first.

However, these are actually very ergonomic designs and are the preferred shape for a lot of professional chefs.

So, if it feels awkward at first, don’t give up, after some practice, you’ll find that these unique shapes can actually make for a more ergonomic and functional grip!

Usage

As we mentioned earlier, a nakiri is designed for chopping vegetables.

They are made to allow chefs to use a push and pull motion when slicing through vegetables, which results in straighter and more precise cuts.

The blade of a nakiri is very hard and brittle, so it shouldn’t really be used for other ingredients besides vegetables.

On the flip side, a bunka is designed to be used as a chef knife.

It can handle a wide variety of ingredients and can be used for just about any kitchen prep task.

You can use a bunka for slicing meat, chopping vegetables, cutting fruits, and even making precise slices on fish!

Conclusion

So, while these blades might look alike at first glance, they couldn’t be more different from each other.

A bunka is a workhorse in the kitchen and can be used for just about any task you can think of.

A nakiri is a very task-specific tool, and should only really be used for chopping and slicing vegetables.

The right knife for you will largely depend on your own needs and preferences in the kitchen.

So, before you go out and buy one of these blades, make sure to go over the features of each knife, and figure out which one fits your needs more.

Last Updated on September 2, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.