Japanese Ken (Noodle) Cut: Used to Cut Thin Daikon Radish Strips

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You’ve likely heard of julienne cuts (known as sengiri in Japanese) but have you heard of other similar cuts that make vegetable strips even thinner?

Well, there’s something called the Japanese Ken cut. It’s mostly used for daikon radish, which is used as a garnish for sushi and sashimi. And no, it doesn’t involve cutting noodles.

Ken cuts produce daikon that are so thin and noodle-like that they are used to offset the vividness of sashimi. But you may also use them as a palette cleanser in between pieces of different kinds of sashimi.

Japanese Ken (Noodle) Cut- Used to Cut Thin Daikon Radish Strips

In this guide, we’ll discuss the Ken cut and how it’s used by Japanese chefs to create artistic food plating.

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What is Japanese Ken noodle cut?

The Ken cut refers to a specific cutting technique for daikon radish in Japan. 

The technique involves creating very thin noodle-like pieces of daikon that can be used as a palate cleanser between bites of sashimi. 

The strips of daikon (or other similar veggies) are so thin they resemble noodles like udon or soba.

To achieve the ken cut, one would follow the steps of creating a long sheet of daikon, cutting it into 3-inch squares, and then stacking the squares to slice through them, creating approximately 1/8-inch julienne pieces. 

For the Ken-style cut, these julienne pieces would then be shredded even finer.

Surprisingly, the Ken noodle cut has nothing to do with cutting noodles. Instead, it’s about cutting radishes and other vegetables into strips as thin as noodles. 

How to do the Ken cut

The “ken” cutting technique is a traditional Japanese method of cutting vegetables into thin noodle-like pieces.

Here are the general steps for cutting vegetables in the ken style:

  1. Cut the vegetable into a rectangular shape with straight edges.
  2. Cut the rectangle into very thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick, but keeping them connected at one end to create a long, thin sheet.
  3. Stack several sheets of the vegetable on top of each other, making sure they are aligned.
  4. Roll the stacked sheets tightly into a cylinder.
  5. Using a sharp knife, slice the cylinder crosswise into very thin strips, creating the ken-style cut.

This cutting technique is commonly used with daikon radish, carrots, and other root vegetables in Japanese cuisine. 

The resulting thin strips can be used as a garnish, in salads, or as a component of dishes such as sushi or sashimi.

Why is it called Ken noodle cut?

People get confused about the ken noodle cut. Initially, it would seem that this cutting technique refers to cutting noodles.

However, that’s not the case. The person doesn’t cut noodles but instead cuts vegetables into strips that are as thin as noodles – that’s the difference. 

Instead, the “ken” cutting technique is often used to create thin, noodle-like pieces of vegetables, such as daikon radish or carrots. 

The resulting pieces are similar in shape and texture to noodles, which is why the cutting style is sometimes referred to as a “noodle cut.” 

These ken-style vegetable noodles can be used in a variety of Japanese dishes, such as salads, stir-fries, and soups, and can be served either hot or cold.

What is Ken cut used for?

The Ken cut is used to create the super thin slices of radish, cucumber, carrot, etc, needed as a garnish for sashimi or filling for sushi rolls. 

Of course, the thin vegetable strips can be used for other foods, too, like stir-fries. 

This type of Japanese cutting technique is mostly used by professional chefs at fine dining restaurants.

It’s not common at regular fast food places like ramen restaurants or food stalls.

Here’s a rundown:

The Ken cut, which is a technique of cutting vegetables into thin, noodle-like pieces, is used in a variety of ways in Japanese cuisine. 

Garnish

The delicate, noodle-like shape of Ken cut vegetables can add an attractive texture and contrast to a plate of food. 

They are often used as a garnish for dishes such as sushi, sashimi, and noodle soups.

In many high-end sushi restaurants, the sushi rolls can be placed beside ken cut radishes and vegetables. 

Also, the veggies, cut in a ken style, may be served under sashimi for aesthetic purposes. They can also be served as palate cleansers between bites of sashimi. 

Salad

Ken cut vegetables can be used to add texture and flavor to salads. They can be mixed with other vegetables, dressed with a flavorful sauce, and served as a refreshing side dish.

Here are some ideas for using Ken cut vegetables in salads:

  1. Daikon Salad: Ken cut daikon radish can be combined with shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, and a tangy dressing for a refreshing salad that pairs well with grilled meats or fish.
  2. Seaweed Salad: Thinly sliced seaweed can be cut into Ken-style noodles and combined with other vegetables, such as shredded carrots, sliced bell peppers, and scallions, for a nutritious and flavorful salad.
  3. Cucumber Salad: Ken cut cucumbers can be dressed with a light vinaigrette or sesame dressing for a simple and refreshing salad that can be served as a side dish or a light lunch (see my sunomono cucumber salad recipe for inspiration).
  4. Edamame Salad: Ken cut carrots, and bell peppers can be mixed with shelled edamame, chopped cilantro, and a soy-ginger dressing for a colorful and protein-packed salad.

Overall, Ken cut vegetables can add an interesting texture and shape to salads and can be combined with a variety of other ingredients to create a flavorful and nutritious dish.

Stir-fry

Thinly sliced vegetables cook quickly, making them ideal for stir-fries.

Ken cut vegetables can be stir-fried with other ingredients, such as meat or tofu, to create a flavorful and nutritious meal.

Some common veggies you can cut into super thin strips for stir fry include:

  • Daikon radish
  • Carrot
  • Cucumber
  • Ginger
  • Zucchini
  • Cabbage (this can be very hard to cut)
  • Gobo
  • Lotus root
  • Taro 
  • Takenoko
  • Sweet potato

Soup

Ken cut vegetables can be added to soups, such as miso soup or noodle soup, to add texture and flavor.

They can be cooked in the broth or added as a topping just before serving.

Usually, the thinly sliced ingredients are added as a garnish because they cook very fast.

So, they can be used as garnishes for udon noodle soup, soba noodle soup, or even fancy ramen. 

Mukimono

Another use of Ken cut vegetables in Japanese cuisine is for mukimono, which is the art of decorative carving of vegetables and fruits. 

The Ken cut is often used to create intricate designs, such as flowers, leaves, and animals, to enhance the visual appeal of a dish. 

Mukimono is commonly used in traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine, which emphasizes the artistry and balance of flavors in each dish. 

The Ken cut is a popular choice for mukimono due to its delicate and precise shape, which can be carved into intricate designs with a sharp knife.

Overall, the Ken cut is a versatile technique that can add a unique texture and flavor to a variety of dishes in Japanese cuisine.

Moritsuke

Moritsuke is the Japanese art of food plating and food arrangement, and this is an area where Ken cut vegetables can be used.

It is often used for traditional kaiseki cuisine, where the presentation of the dish is just as important as its taste. 

Moritsuke can involve various techniques, such as cutting vegetables into decorative shapes or arranging food in a specific pattern.

Ken cut vegetables can be used in moritsuke to create intricate and visually appealing designs. 

For example, Ken cut carrots can be arranged to look like flowers, or Ken cut daikon radish can be arranged to look like a fan or a crane.

The delicate and precise shape of Ken cut vegetables makes them well-suited for use in moritsuke.

Overall, combining the Ken cut technique with the art of moritsuke can result in a stunning and memorable dining experience, where the visual presentation of the dish is just as important as its taste.

What are the advantages of a Ken cut?

There are several advantages to using the ken cutting technique or creating thin cuts of vegetables in general:

  • Aesthetics: Thinly sliced vegetables can enhance the visual appeal of a dish. The delicate, noodle-like shape of ken-style cuts can add an attractive texture and contrast to a plate of food.
  • Texture: Thinly sliced vegetables often have a different texture than larger cuts. They can be more delicate and tender, making them easier to eat and digest.
  • Flavor: Because thin cuts of vegetables have more surface area exposed to the dressing or seasoning, they can absorb flavors more readily, resulting in a more flavorful dish.
  • Cooking time: Thinly sliced vegetables cook faster than thicker cuts, making them a good choice for quick stir-fries or other dishes that require short cooking times.
  • Health benefits: Thinly sliced vegetables can be a good source of nutrients and fiber. The ken cutting technique can be particularly useful for root vegetables like daikon radish, which may be difficult to eat in large chunks but can provide important vitamins and minerals when sliced thinly.

Ken vs Sengiri: what’s the difference?

Ken cut and sengiri cut are both Japanese culinary techniques used to cut vegetables into thin, elongated pieces, but there are some differences between the two:

  1. Thickness: Ken cut vegetables are usually thinner and more delicate than sengiri cut vegetables. Ken cut vegetables are sliced into noodle-like shapes that are typically 1/8 inch wide, whereas sengiri cut vegetables are thicker, usually around 1/4 inch wide.
  2. Texture: Ken cut vegetables are delicate and tender, while sengiri cut vegetables have a firmer texture.
  3. Use: Ken cut vegetables are often used for decorative purposes, as a garnish, or for mukimono (the art of decorative carving of vegetables and fruits). Sengiri cut vegetables, on the other hand, are more commonly used as an ingredient in dishes such as stir-fries, noodle soups, and salads.

Overall, the main differences between Ken cut and sengiri cut vegetables are in their thickness, texture, and use.

While both techniques involve cutting vegetables into thin, elongated pieces, they are used in different ways in Japanese cuisine.

What type of Japanese knife is used for the Ken cut?

The Ken style cut is all about extreme precision and smooth cuts, so the best choice is a traditional Japanese single-bevel knife.

Japanese chefs go through a step-by-step learning process to understand the different cutting techniques and how to use knives best.

The same principles that apply to the samurai sword also apply to Japanese knives. The core traits of Japanese chefs are discipline and dedication to their craft. 

True western chefs may have the ultra-modern kitchen gadgets, but when it comes to knife handling and development of skills, Japanese chefs have them beat. 

It takes about 10 years of training to become an itamae sushi chef. That’s right, 10 years!

That’s because the training tools Japanese chefs use are slightly different from their western counterparts, particularly in the composition of the knives. 

Japanese blades are forged from harder, thinner steel, which results in greater durability.

The tougher steel means that Japanese knives can be sharpened at a finer angle, allowing chefs to create precision cuts, which is vital in Japanese cuisine. 

Japanese knives are single bevel, while Western knives tend to be double bevel. The bevel refers to the surface ground to form the knife edge. 

Single-bevel knives are ground at a finer angle than double-bevel ones, making sharper cuts and slices. 

Some of the knives used for ken cut include the traditional yanagiba sushi knife.

As well, the sujihiki has an even thinner blade which is best for making super thin cuts.

Some chefs will also use the gyuto chef’s knife and the usuba single-bevel vegetable cleaver. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Ken cut is a traditional Japanese technique used to cut vegetables into thin, noodle-like shapes that are delicate and tender. 

The resulting thin slices can be used as a garnish, in salads, or as a component of dishes such as sushi or sashimi. 

The Ken cut is often used for decorative purposes in mukimono, the art of decorative carving of vegetables and fruits. 

While sengiri cut vegetables are thicker and more commonly used as an ingredient in dishes such as stir-fries, noodle soups, and salads, Ken cut vegetables are thinner and more delicate, adding an interesting texture and shape to dishes. 

The Ken cut technique is a versatile and unique way to enhance the visual appeal of Japanese dishes while also adding flavor and nutrition to meals.

Next, learn about the three most important sashimi cuts (and some lesser known ones)

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.