Hi, my name is Chris and I am one of the English-speaking staff working for BECOS.
Last fall, I had the really cool opportunity to work with the 100-year-old chopstick company Hashikura Matsukan to develop a brand-new product that we launched together on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. The product was saibashi (cooking chopsticks) that were coated with a special type of lacquer that makes them dishwasher safe. (You can now find them on BECOS here)
What is lacquer?
In case you need a refresher on lacquer ("urushi" in Japanese), it's a 100% natural material made from the sap of a certain type of tree (called the "urushi no ki" in Japanese). It has been used in many traditional Japanese crafts for hundreds of years, and you've probably seen wooden soup bowls or chopsticks coated with it before.
Normal lacquer can't withstand high heat without deteriorating and losing its luster. However, this issue was solved back in the 90's when a new type of lacquer called "MR urushi" was developed in a process that involves passing the liquid lacquer through a heavy mill that crushes the particles into an even finer and stronger substance that looks the same and can be applied in the same was as normal urushi.
We decided to use this MR urushi to make a set of saibashi cooking chopsticks that would be heat-resistant (important when cooking) and safe in the dishwasher (easy for cleaning). The result was a very sleek and beautiful set of saibashi that are quite functional.
The project went live on Kickstarter in November of 2021, and ended up being incredibly successful, with more than 600 backers preordering a total of more than 1,000 sets!
Before launching the project, we had just 2 prototype sets made, one of which I have been using every day (literally every day) since I received it more than half a year ago. Here are my (slightly biased) thoughts:
The saibashi wear extremely well
I've been heavily using the saibashi every day for a variety of cooking including stir frying, mixing, turning things in the pan as they cook, and plating food. I do a lot of cooking using a cast iron skillet with a fairly rough surface, so as you might expect, after scraping the saibashi back and forth along the surface over so many uses, the tips are starting to wear just a bit. However, since they are bamboo, the wood itself doesn't chip or splinter, so they are still completely safe to use and still get clean when washed. Other than that, though, the rest of the surface is in exquisite shape, with no visible scratches or damage anywhere.
The saibashi are beautiful
I love the look of lacquerware in general, but there's something I find particularly appealing about the appearance of un-colored lacquer like that used on the saibashi. It still has a gorgeous glossy sheen, but it also reflects the colors of nature—because after all, it is made from tree sap and nothing else.
The saibashi are very lightweight and comfortable to use
Bamboo is a material that is not only durable and resistant to breaking, but also light weight. This makes it the perfect material for chopsticks and is why it was chosen for these saibashi. They are very delicate and easy to control while at the same time sturdy enough to grab fairly large pieces of food while I cook.
The triangular shape is perfect
The shafts of the saibashi are made in a triangular shape that prevents them from rolling when you place them down on the counter or plate. I used to cook with round saibashi, so I can't tell you how grateful I am for this one little feature.
If you're curious about cooking chopsticks, check out the saibashi!
I love cooking with saibashi because they are so versatile and useful, yet they take up so little space. If you're interested in incorporating a pair into your kitchen, I can't recommend it highly enough! Purchase the saibashi on BECOS here