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Fast, Cheerful and Beautiful Way of Cooking

February 01, 1996|RUSS PARSONS

If you were to measure the cost-benefit ratio of various kitchen implements, there might be some argument over what would rate the highest: stainless steel bowls, wooden spoons, plastic spatulas, freezer bags. . . .

There would probably be little argument over the lowest. A French mandoline is an absolutely gorgeous piece of machinery--all shining stainless steel and razor-sharp blades. Unfortunately, despite a list price of about $150, it's next to useless--good only for cutting very thin slices and certain shapes, like gaufrettes (waffle-cut potato chips).

But if you've just got to have near-transparent slices of citrus fruit, paper-thin potato chips or perfect shreds of cucumber or radish, you now have a much more affordable alternative.

The Benriner, made in Japan and so far available most commonly in Japanese housewares stores--Anzen Hardware on 1st Street and Yaohan on Alameda Street in Little Tokyo are good sources--costs about $30 and works almost as well as its far more expensive competitor. The blades are stainless steel, and the plastic carriage adjusts for an almost infinite variety of cutting widths.

As a bonus, you get one of those great translated Japanese owner's manuals, including a promise of "10 Dishes in 1 Minutes" (they turn out to be sashimi garnishes) and instructions on how to make the best chopped burdock root. As the brochure says, "Let's have daily crisp vegetables."

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