Kitchen items

the secret of lacquerware beauty #1

What is the difference between “MOKUGO” and wood ?
“MOKUGO” is a kind of synthetic wood.  It is made of flour resin, wood powder and wood.  Japanese lacquer-ware “Urushi” made of solid wood is very expensive.
In addition, a real wood base is very delicate as it is susceptible to cracks caused by abrupt change of temperature and humidity once in a while.
For this reason, we strongly recommend Japanese lacquerware made on “MOKUGO” bases to an overseas customer.

How is “Japanese lacquer” differing from “urethane coating” ?
The Japanese lacquer is made from a sap extracted from a bush called “Urushi” in japanese (the botanical name is: Toxicodendron vernicifluum). In many cases it looks like a bush, the lacquer tree (also known as the Japanese sumac or the varnish tree) can grow up to 20 meters high and is present in Japan, China and Korea.

Currently, lacquer trees are becoming more and more scarce in Japan. Besides, the craftsman with the professional ability to gather the lacquer sap is limited. This is one of the reasons which makes the Japanese lacquer “Urushi” very expensive.
On the other hand urethane is a cheap and easy to work with substitute of the lacquer. By adding a pigment (commonly red or black) in a synthetic resin, it is possible to create a surrogate of japanese lacquer.
Because it can easily mass-produced, it can be sold at a very low price.
Additionally, urethane items are easy to use and require little care.
On the other hand, genuine lacquer tree product needs careful care to keep a good condition.

Urethane coated “surrogate lacquer-ware” are very popular. Especially the miso soup bowls(cups) used in general home and restaurants are finished with urethane coating.
Urethane used to be very glossy and easy to scratch: felt like plastic in general was cheap looking.
Technological improvements are making urethane coated surrogate lacquer-ware better looking and more resilient.

Said that…as you can imagine, authentic lacquer-ware beautiful shine and refined touch are still a different planet.
Real lacquer-ware can give you strong emotions and help you sharpen your sensibility.
It is like receiving a kiss from a princess: it may take great effort to obtain one but it is definitely worth it.
Owning and taking care of a lacquerware item may be a life changing experience!

Few important notes you for you to keep in mind:
1. Do not wash lacquer items with a dish detergent. Alkaline detergents must not be used as they remove the shine and make the lacquer-ware look dull.
2. Wash it only with tepid water and wipe off moisture with a dish towel promptly. Then finish rinsing it out with dry dish towel. Finally put away it after just drying for a while away from direct sun exposure.
3. Fingerprints may leave permanent signs if the item is not properly cleaned or left unused for a long time.
When storing lacquer-ware for a long term, it is important to wear cotton gloves when you take care of it. Do not leave your finger prints. etc.

Delicate care is necessary to preserve the refined beauty of lacquer-ware, as you would do for an artwork.
What is important is what you are expecting from you relationship with lacquer-ware items.
Are you looking for daily tableware or for a work of art?
Which one do you want?  It is just up to you!

Echizen lacquerware

Production area:

Sabae is a small city on the korean sea within the Fukui prefecture.
Amazing enough, the majority of the eyeglasses frames made in Japan is produced in this 60,000 people town.
Very roughly, if you look at a map of Japan you will see that Sabae is located north of the Biwako lake, almost in between Kyoto and Kanazawa (also known as small Kyoto.)

sabae

History:

I am not sure if this is the reason why Sabae is also one of the capitals of japanese Urushi Lacquerware, but the historic archives prove that in the 6th century emperor Keitai appointed skilled craftsmen from Sabae to repair broken crowns of the imperial family.
The craftsmen did a perfect job and presented a simple black lacquer bowl to the emperor.
The emperor was surprised at the sturdiness and beauty of the craft and adopted the Sabae craftsmen as the official supplier of the court. Since then the crafts produced in this area are known as Echizen Lacquer ware.
Sabae constantly developed the technique to bloom in the edo era with the Maki-e (Gold Lacquer) as the most famous Japanese laquerware production area.

urushi-tray

Shikki from Misako:

My friend Misako, originary from Sabae is a “lacquerware coordinator”. She selects shapes and the most suitable craftsman to produce the tableware and created a collection of all time classics for Bartok design.
Lacquerware is sturdy and lightweight. It is in-frangible and long lasting.
But there is one problem you should be aware of:
YES, items made of solid wood, carved on a spinning table are authentic and highly priced.
On the other hand, if brought to other countries which do not have the same high relative humidity peculiar of the japanese islands… the solid wood tableware is prone to crack, thus spoiling the invincible and immaculate lacquer coating. (sigh!)

Quality:

Do not make that face! Misako has a solution for us. The items she picked up are made with a base of wood paste (glue and wood chips) molded to obtain the required shape.

This bases are stable and cheaper than the solid items.
The bases are then hand painted with the best lacquer, without compromises.
To summarize: the SHIKKI (= lacquerware) items consist in two main handcrafts:
1) wood carving
2) lacquer layering

The items we are proposing have the following specifications:
1) molded base (no hand carving)
2) best quality lacquer layering

The Misako collection provides the best cost performance and an amazing flexibility.
Her items are smooth and gorgeous while being lightweight and durable.

Shapes, sizes and order made items:

She can make the items you are looking for in small series or single items: feel free to mail us at japan@bartokdesign.com

Lacquerware is great for a gift, is very practical (many items are dishwasher safe) and could be an amazing atmosphere maker for restaurants, parties and events. Of course it is perfect not just for japanese food: the top of the sophistication is to serve a shrimp salad or a swordfish carpaccio in a stunning japanese tableware.

Find our the standard items in the shop section and do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something different!

Best regards and … Bon apetit (itadakimasu!)

Find our the standard items in the shop section and do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something different!

chopping table for famous chef

Well, this is not a tub but being a custom woodwork, I decided to add it to this section.
We made a chopping table for a famous chef, with a solid hinoki chopping board.

At first we considered the shipping cost and found out that the normal shipping would cost as much as the table itself…
So we decided to make it “knock down” so it could be shipped by EMS air mail.
Of course the client had to assemble it but we prepared all the joints so no screws are necessary (only glue).
This way we could keep the cost within the price range of an american end-grain chopping table.

as the board itself needs to be removed for washing, we supplied a silicon mat to be cut to size and placed between the top frame and the cutting board. The mat becomes sticky when compressed, so it holds the board in place preventing it to slide.
Also, it absorbs the vibrations hence the sound made when chopping or cutting.

to the left is the sketch of the chopping table
to the right is the picture that the client kindly sent us!

Here are the specs of the table:
* Hinoki wood stand 540x450x745H with urethane finish
(Assembling on site with use of bond.)
(this stand would be without middle shelf to make the assembly easier)
* Packaging (reinforced cardboard box)
* Shipment by EMS

Here below are some cutting boards you can choose. Which one do you like?

here are the indicative costs (keep in mind that solid hinoki cost may vary like a commodity so we cannot guarantee on these prices)
kiso hinoki
140101.  430mm L x 118mm x 300mm(quarter sawn) ¥84,000 plane finished
140102.  580mm L x 108mm x 380mm(quarter sawn) ¥98,000 plane finished
130742.  710mm L x 72mm x 370mm(plank cut) ¥35,000 plane finished
130703.  650mm L x 90mm x 580mm(plank cut) ¥48,000 plane finished

say it with a cutting board

As simple as the title states, a japanese cutting board makes it for a perfect gift!

It is rare and an everyday use item at the same time.
Surprise your mom, partner, friend or client with a unique yet useful present!
Bartok cutting boards are available in 3 sizes, check our shop or scroll this page further below.
Hinoki wood cutting boards are wrapped in rice paper and can contain a personalized message as per your request.
For further information please contac tus by email: japan@bartokdesign.com

the carp and the cutting board

There is a saying in japan:
“It is like the carp on the cutting board”
(koi ni manaita)
It is used to mean that somebody is at the mercy the another party.
It is not sure that the carp is going to become a sashimi or not…
Anyway there is nothing that the carp can do and only has to passively wait for its destiny…

Do you want to be like a carp on the cutting board?
If not, take action!

Do not let your poor knives dull their blades on a plastic cutting board.
Also, you do not want to give free reign to bacteria build up in a traditional end-grain wooden board…

So, set aside your passive attitude in the kitchen and purchase one of our hinoki wood cutting boards! They come in 3 sizes, all gentle on the knives and safe on the foods thanks to the power of hinoki germicidal qualities.

The world`s best cutting board

We mentioned in a previous entry that there are many types of cutting boards.
Discarding glass boards (which all the experts agree that will dull your knives in no time), we have to choose between wood and plastic types.
Each material has different features, strong points and weak points.
But which chopping board should we use?
Actually, the reason for the “dilemma” is not the variety of the offer but rather the fact that for the most important feature of a cutting board the western world experts do not have a clear winner.
Of course we are talking about HYGIENE and the fact that a cutting board may harbor dangerous patogens such as salmonella and E. coli. and contaminate our food just as we are preparing it?
Are the micro indents left by the knife a potential receptacle of bacteria?
Many studies have been done with controversial results.
It seems that wood cutting boards do not show signs of bacteria after 60 hours of use compared to plastic boards that if not washed become colonies of microorganisms.
The antagonists object that wood is porous and the bacteria may not be present on the surface just because they find a better environment deeper into the wood…
This debate is going on at least since Feb. 6, 1993, when “Science News” published an article on cutting boards. Their point was that the wooden boards could assure better hygiene but could not provide an objective proof.
Today the advocates of wood and plastic are still impugnating old studies and experts opinions.
We are glad we can now solve the dilemma.
Wood is safer than plastic, but not any wood.
Japanese have been used cutting boards made of hinoki wood for centuries and the reason is that the “hinokithyol” natural resin contained in the wood fibers have a high bactericidal property.
Hinoki is a coniferous soft wood, making it the best choice both for the sake of your knife`s blade and for your health as it would actually disinfect food as you are cutting it!
See this entry for a desctition of hinoki essential oil properties
If you are looking for the world`s best cutting board, here it is:

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Plastic or wooden cutting board: how to choose.

The culinary and sanitary world seems to be split in a dilemma:
Is it better to use plastic cutting mats or wooden cutting boards?

    The advantages and disadvantages of both are easy to outline:

  • cutting boards: a wooden chopping board is more stable and offers a good support for the blade
  • acryl cutting boards are similar to wood in weight with the extra advantage of being dish washer washable.
  • Light weight plastic boards are economic and can replaced frequently. They can be bent and used as a funnel. Some people find it convenient to overlap them on a traditional cutting board and differentiate them for cutting vegetables, meat etc.

The different qualities make it difficult to define for sure which type makes for the ideal cutting board.
Most of the cooking experts make an obvious recommendation: you should keep both types in the kitchen! Plastic cutting boards may be preferable when cutting meat or poultry. For cutting vegetables or bread, be sure to go for a wooden chopping board.
The experts have one more piece of advice that you should never forget: keep your cutting board clean to avoid food contamination and infections caused by bacteria such as salmonella.
Plastic boards are apparently easy to wash, but you should be aware that microorganism tend to remain in the tiny indents created by the knife and proliferate.
Wooden boards are porous but almost all laboratory test would show low bacteria content on the surface of a wooden cutting board. Is it just because the bacteria penetrate inside as opposed of staying on the surface?
It may be, not all wooden boards are the same. You can span from walnut, bamboo laminated boards, cherry or japanese hinoki. Of course the experts recommend the hinoki wood as its natural bactericidal property offers the best guarantee for the hygiene of your cutting board.
Hinoki products are used as a base for many disinfectants used in hospitals, especially for preventing nosocomial infections. As a matter of fact hinoki oil is one of the few treatments for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other resilient patogens!
If you are looking for the world`s best wooden cutting board, find it in our shop (available in three sizes)

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tomato salad

Do you know the ingredients for a good tomato salad?
Of course tomatoes. Then dressing?
Or layer with mozzarella cheese and top with oil and oregano?
You can also enjoy tomatoes with onion and tuna, or garlic and feta cheese.
But we have our own favorite recipe: cut tomatoes.

Did you know that italians call tomatoes “pomodoro”, literally golden pommel.
It is often used as a symbol of the energy of the sun, which makes it grow, shining and red.
We invite you to try to enjoy these simple, sincere tomatoes “nature”: with an oriental touch.

How does it work?

  1. Find some medium size cherry tomato, not too ripe and not too green.
  2. Then cut them on a hinoki wood cutting board.
  3. Let it on the board for few minutes, so the tomato can absorb the delicate forest scent of the hinoki wood
  4. Add few granes of marine salt

ENJOY!

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