Julienne (joo-lee-EHN) is a French word for cutting food into thin long strips or “matchsticks” using a knife or a mandoline. This technique is often used with vegetables to add texture to a dish and to ensure even cooking. From what I can tell, the origins and story of this technique are unclear. Some say it was invented by a French Chef, Jean Julien, who created a clear soup garnished with thin strips of vegetables. The first known use of the term in print, however, is said to be in a book published in 1722 and authored by a French chef who was the Master Chef to various royalty, including Louis XIV.
I recently took a knife skills class at The Brooklyn Kitchen and wanted to share a quick, step-by-step, description of how to julienne two ingredients I often use in my kitchen – ginger and scallions. You can also see how I cook with them in a favorite recipe of Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger and Scallions.
Scallions (aka Green Onions)
Step 1: Start by trimming the root end and the top 1 inch of the dark-green end and by peeling the outer-most layer of the scallion. Rinse to remove any dirt and then pat dry with a paper towel. Using a sharp knife, cut each scallion into 1/3 pieces or approximately 2 inches in length.
Step 2: Halve each piece of scallion lengthwise to create a flat side.
Step 3: Placing each piece with its flat side down, cut lengthwise into thin even slivers or “matchsticks”.
Step 1: Start by peeling a 2 inch square piece of ginger using a sharp knife. Trim each end to create a flat surface to rest the ginger on.
Step 2: Cut the ginger into long thin slices lengthwise.
Step 3: Stack the ginger slices.
Step 4: Thinly cut down the row of ginger slices to make thin even slivers or “matchsticks”.
You can use this technique on all sorts of vegetables and meats. Just remember to use a sharp knife, create a flat surface, break down the ingredient into thin strips and then cut it further into thin slivers. It’s easy and makes for a good looking dish. Stay tuned for more knife techniques.