Why Use a Japanese Ladle?

In our series on soba, you may have noticed Chef Shuichi Kotani working with a particular ladle when preparing the broth and flavoring base, as well as when assembling the finished dish.

This ladle is called an otama—an indispensable tool found in every Japanese kitchen.

Compared to a typical metal ladle, the otama features a shallow bowl like a saucer, and a long wooden handle.

“I love this kind of ladle,” says Chef Kotani, “I’ve been using it my whole life.”

What makes it so handy?

The chef breaks it down for us:

The otama helps you control movement, prevent spills, inspect the liquid you’re working with, and, through a swirling motion, even allows you to adds liquids and seasonings like shoyu and mirin without damaging ingredients in a broth.

Chef Kotani demonstrates another benefit—no drips:

Finally, Chef Kotani reveals an old-school Japanese kitchen maneuver to taste liquids without your lips touching the ladle:

Now you know! Thanks, Kotani san.

Chef's Corner