Have you ever been using a Santoku and thinking to yourself “Man, this knife slaps. So good at chopping veggies. So nimble and easy to use. I love this knife. It’s amazing. But I wish it had a super rad pointy tip”? Well, you need a Bunka, aka my new favourite knife shape.
The name Bunka translates to “culture, and was created in the 1950s when Japanese culture was modernizing. “Bunka apartments” were highly popular in urban areas, and the name was eventually lifted for this knife shape. Functionally, I feel like this knife might actually have the best ratio of size to functionality out of any shape around.
Bunka: The cooler, more badass cousin to the Santoku.
It’s really common for many cooks to be intimidated or put-off by a big honkin’ 240mm chef’s knife. I respectfully disagree with those people, but I can understand! And a lot of these people end up gravitating towards a santoku. Now don’t get me wrong, santokus are all good and fine, but sometimes they can be a little bit inarticulate. The tip of a santoku is really rounded off, and kinda clunky. But the Bunka? Different story!
This li’l beauty can pull a TON of weight in any kitchen. In fact, I think it’s easily the most versatile “medium sized” knife on my magnet. Bunkas are usually in the 160mm-180mm size range, have a nice flat cutting edge, and an amazingly articulate dropped tip. Which Bunka do I own? Great question, thanks for asking…
Nice, right!?! I picked it up a couple of months ago and it has quickly risen the ranks to become perhaps my most reached-for knife. Just look at it, it’s simply BEGGING to cut some stuff! Just the other night, as I often do, I indulged in a plate of homemade nachos with homemade salsa. I don’t think it’s even remotely disputable that good Nachos are one of the best foods of all time. This little bunka was the perfect fit for everything I had to do - mincing garlic and onions with the flat part of the blade, coring tomatoes with the slender little tip, long slicing scallions on a bias, seeding and dicing jalapenos, cleaning excess fat off chicken thighs - all with a badass little knife that you can slip into a 200mm blade guard, pop in your bag, and easily trot into any home or professional kitchen.
My totally home-made nachos that I made last week.
While I favour the Hado Sakai, we've got a whole ton of sexy bunkas for you to choose from. Here are just a few of my favourites:
We're big fans of SG2 steel at Knifewear. It gets sharp like a lightsaber, holds an edge with the best of them, and requires no special maintenance! I love the clean, straight lines along the spine of this knife, and the guys at Nigara know their stuff: they've been making knives for 350 years.
Don't let the size fool you, this bunka has some extra height that really puts it near the top of my list. A taller knife means more clearance for big knuckles, and lets you get into big food like squash and cabbage with ease! Manaka-san grinds his blades to be slightly thicker in the middle, which breaks surface tension and stops food from sticking to your blade!
Now that's a spicy meatball! Just look at that sexy knife. Damascus steel, a stunning birch burl handle, everything you want in a high-quality kitchen tool. We love Miyabi knives, both for their good looks and their awesome performance!
On the other hand, we have the rugged, reliable, and super affordable Tojiro Ergos! These are perfect for bringing to a professional kitchen where others might use your tools, or as a decoy knife so your roomates don't reach for your Fujiwara Denka when they're making munchies at 2am...
We had to give a shoutout to the Hakata, the regional cousin of the bunka from Kyushu. Hakata is the old name for Fukuoka, and some blacksmiths in the area specialize in making this one shape. This particular one comes from Miyazaki-san, a bright young blacksmith who brings classic knife-making techniques into the modern age.