This $5 Kitchen Tool Makes Instant Gorgeous Garnishes

Turn scallions into crunchy, curly ribbons with a negi cutter

negi cutter
A negi cutter, or, as it's sometimes affectionately known, a cat's claw.Matt Taylor-Gross

When chef Chris Costentino came to our test kitchen for a Saveur Supper, he was promoting his new book Offal Good: Cooking from the Heart, with Guts. We were prepared for a crash course in elegant organ cookery, but he also brought along one of the handiest kitchen gadgets I've seen in awhile. This unassuming little workhorse is called a negi cutter, or, affectionately, a cat claw. It's the shortcut to curling scallions into those pretty, delicate ribbons, and everyone I know is getting one for Christmas this year.

The negi cutter is a simple tool: seven stubby, razor-sharp blades, closely set into a plastic handle. It was designed to quickly shred Japanese spring onions (Tokyo negi) into thin wisps for garnish on dishes like ramen, but it also works wonders on ordinary scallions and leeks. Just wash and trim your allium of choice, hang onto the root end, and comb into it with the blades, rotating the onion every few strokes. It is easy to shred through a whole bunch of scallions in minutes, leaving you plenty of time for less mundane kitchen tasks.

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Don't skip the ice water after you shred to keep your scallions perkyMatt Taylor-Gross

For a garnish with some height, plop the shreds in ice water for a few moments and marvel as they seize up into curly ribbons, perfect for topping noodles, soups, and tacos.

At $4.79 a pop, you shouldn't feel too bad about springing for another single-use kitchen tool, but I could see the cat claw being a handy way to slice pasta or pie dough into even strips. It will also be a useful tool for decorative pastry work, either for cutting fondant or for etching into rolled cookie doughs and hard candy. I'll be relying on mine when putting the finishing touches on my gingerbread house this year.