So after a couple weeks of traveling through chilly Central Europe, I’m home again and what do you think I’m craving? Asian Noodle Soups! But more specifically- Beef Udon! This Beef Udon is everything good in a bowl. Flavorful, simple, fast, and oh so comforting. read more
Hello there, funky friends! It’s been a little while. Between opening a new concept- local friends, check out Halo Halo Snack Shack for Miami’s only authentic Asian shaved ice desserts; and waiting for my dear husband (who happens to be not just the executive chef at our restaurants but also our Funky Asian Kitchen photographer) to recover from knee replacement surgery….2023 has been quite a year already. But I’m happy to be back and I have so many exciting recipes to share with you- like the Dashi recipes we’re making today! Foundational to Japanese cuisine, dashi is used in dishes as diverse as hot pots, noodle dishes, stews, and of course as the stock for miso soup. There are several variations that are common in Japan, and I’m going to share three versions that I regularly enjoy.
Katsuobushi and Kombu Dashi
Kombu is essential to making dashi. In fact, all 3 of the dashi variations I am sharing today start by soaking the kombu in water to gently extract its deep umami flavor. I like to soak it for at least an hour, but overnight in the fridge is great too. One of the golden rules in Japanese cuisine, is to never let kombu boil. Why? Because it tends to get slimy and that will transfer to your broth. However, if you’re a rule breaker, you will find that after it’s been boiling for a little while, the slime kind of goes away.
Another lesser rule is to gently wipe down the kombu with a damp cloth before using. This one, I always ignore. The whitish cast on the kombu is not mold; it’s called mannitol and is perfectly natural. It’s a combination of sugar and salts that rises to the surface of the kelp as it dries and adds more umami to your dishes- so really why bother? So rule follower, rule breaker, I’ll let you decide. In the recipes below, I’m following the established principles to give you some guidelines.
Katsuobushi, a dried smoked tuna that is then shaved, is 100% worth seeking out. It’s used in a ton of dishes as a topping/flavoring, stores easily in the pantry, and lasts virtually forever (although really old katsuobushi may lose some of its flavor over time). Japanese cuisine is subtle, relying on seasonality and fresh products above all else. Katsuobushi is one of those ingredients that really lends itself to highlighting those qualities, working in the background, quietly adding some depth, flavor, and light smokiness. You will be amazed at how just these two ingredients create such a complex broth that tastes like it’s been simmered for hours.
Once your water comes to a simmer, make sure to turn off the heat before adding the katsuobushi. Otherwise, the stock will be cloudy and almost slightly bitter. As the bonito flakes steep, they will sink slowly to the bottom of your pot. There’s no need to stir/mix it. Just let it be 😉 Strain your dashi through a sieve to use immediately or store in the fridge. You can also freeze it for convenience.
Anchovy and Kombu Dashi
This next dashi has a bolder fish flavor, though not overpowering. Typically in Japan, it is made with small dried anchovies known as iriko. Personally, I prefer to follow the Korean lead and use some of the bigger ones. Anchovy stock is used regularly in Korean cusine and it pairs well with the assertive, robust flavors of their food. If you’re using the small anchovies, you can use them as is, but if the jumbos are what you have, you’ll want to remove the head and guts. Although it may seem a little tedious, you’ll get a less fishy product that’s also less bitter and more versatile to use. The photo below shows both sizes which you can easily find in most Asian stores.
Removing the heads and gutting the fish is easy to do and requires just a couple minutes. Once you pinch off the heads, put your fingers at the throat area. Pull the hard black guts out (they will come out as 1 hard piece) and continue cleaning the rest of the anchovies.
This stock will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. Like all stocks, this freezes well if you would like to store some in the freezer.
Shiitake Mushroom Dashi
There aren’t a lot of hardcore vegetarians in Japan. Most people, even those that eat a largely plant based diet, do occasionally eat seafood. But it’s nice to have a vegetarian dashi to add savory oomph if you are avoiding meat. I use dried shiitake mushrooms for the deepest flavor. Once again I start by soaking the kombu, but I add the dried mushrooms too. Place a little dish on top to make sure they are fully submerged. Let that soak for at least an hour, or up to overnight in the fridge.
I prefer not to simmer the mushrooms. Instead, as soon as the water almost comes to a simmer, I turn off the heat and let the mushrooms steep in the very hot liquid. This technique gives me a light flavorful liquid but not one that’s going to overpower a dish with mushroom flavor. If you love mushroom flavor and can’t get enough, go ahead and gently simmer it instead of just steeping.
Like the other 2 dashi, this one will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days and also freezes well.
If you’re wondering what to do with the stuff you’ve strained out of the stock, you can definitely save the Kombu and the shiitake mushrooms for another purpose. For the anchovies and katsuobushi, I keep them as a treat for our dog Mina. If you have a 4-legged family member, they would love a couple tablespoons mixed into their meals. You can also try your hand at furikake for a 2-legged family treat.
Now that you have mastered 3 different dashi, the possibilities for them are endless. Try one in my Egg Soufflé for an elegant but easy supper. Replace this homemade dashi for the dashi powder/water combo in the Cold Soba. Use the shiitake version to make Chikuzen, Japan’s famed braised chicken. Or try the anchovy dashi in Tteokbokki or Oden Stew. And of course they will make an excellent egg drop or miso soup. Having these flavorful stocks on hand will up your kitchen game exponentially. Try one, or all 3, and let me know what you think! Tag us on insta @funkyasiankitchen or leave us a comment here; we love hearing from you.
Katsuobushi and Kombu Dashi
- 4 cups water
- 1 ½ cups lightly packed katsuobushi (about 20 grams)
- 2 pieces kombu the size of your hand (about 4”x6”)
Anchovy and Kombu Dashi
- 4 cups water
- ½ cup dried large anchovies (about 25 grams or 15 pieces)
- 1 piece kombu the size of your hand (about 4”x6”)
Vegetarian Shiitake Mushroom and Kombu Dashi
- 1 piece kombu the size of your hand (about 4”x6”)
- 4 cups water
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
To Make Katsuobushi/Kombu Dashi:
- Break the kombu into a couple of pieces and then soak the kombu in the water for at least 1 hour (or even overnight) in the fridge.*
- Pour the kelp water into a pot (save the kombu for a different purpose) and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- As soon as the liquid starts to simmer, add the katsuobushi and turn off the heat. Let the liquid steep for 15 minutes.
- Strain the dashi through a sieve and then use the stock immediately or transfer to the fridge or freeze. The stock keeps for 5 days in the fridge.
To Make Anchovy and Kombu Dashi:
- Break the kombu into a couple of smaller pieces. Add it to the water and soak the kombu for at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.
- Head and gut the sardines by breaking off the heads and then pinching out the guts which are hard and black. Discard the head and guts.
- Pull the kombu out and reserve for another use. Then put the anchovies in a pot with the soaking water.
- Bring the pot to a simmer over high heat. Partially cover the pot with a lid, lower the heat to medium and continue to simmer for 15 mins and then strain out the sardines. Either discard or use the sardines in another dish (if you have pets, they love the cooked sardines).
- Use the stock immediately or transfer to the fridge or freeze. The stock keeps for 5 days in the fridge. You can substitute 2 cups of katsuobushi (about 2 cups or 20 grams for the iriko)
To Make Vegetarian Shiitake Mushroom and Kombu Dashi:
- Break the kombu into a couple of smaller pieces. Put the kombu in a container with the water. Wipe off the mushrooms and then soak the mushrooms with the kombu. You can put a bowl on top of the mushrooms to keep them submerged. Soak for at least an hour or even overnight.
- Strain out the kombu and then put the mushrooms and soaking water in a pot. Bring the pot to a bare simmer and then turn off the heat. Let the mushrooms sit in the cooling pot for 10 minutes.
- Squeeze the mushrooms to extract as much liquid as you can and reserve the mushrooms for another purpose. Use immediately or transfer to the fridge or freeze. The stock keeps for 5 days in the fridge.
*kombu becomes a little slimy when heated but if you are in a rush and do not have time for a long soak, put the kombu in a pot with the water and gently heat it on very low heat for 10 minutes before continuing.
Keywords: dashi, stock, japanese, miso, dried fish, dried anchovy, iriko, shiitake, kombu, vegetarian, awase
There may not be a more crowd pleasing, popular dessert than cheesecake, and this Japanese Cheesecake is next level. It’s melt in your mouth delicious; part cheesecake and part soufflé. All the creamy tang of cheesecake, lightened with the airy cloudlike texture of a soufflé. Now you know what you’re making next time someone says, “bring dessert”.
Unlike New York style cheesecake, which is rich, dense, and decadent, this Japanese Cheesecake is soft, airy, and sophisticated. It perfectly reflects Japanese tastes when it comes to desserts. It’s modestly sweet and just rich enough for you to feel like it’s dessert. Honestly, it’s hard to stop at just one serving. So if you’re a cheesecake lover (and let’s get real, who isn’t?), switch it up and try a different spin on a familiar favorite.
What separates Japanese cheesecake, also called Soufflé cheesecake, from a New York style cheesecake that you may be more familiar with is its incredibly light, fluffy, and airy texture. That texture comes from an egg white meringue that gets mixed into the cream cheese batter. And it relies on having a truly preheated oven. Don’t rush, give your oven enough time to heat up. If the oven isn’t hot enough, the egg whites will deflate and the cheesecake will be dense and heavy instead of light and airy, so turning on the oven is always the first thing I do. Then I begin by prepping my soufflé ramekin.
Prepping the Ramekin
I use the same ramekin here that I use for making soufflés. It’s 7 inches across and 5 inches deep. You can use a slightly bigger one too; your cake will just be a little bigger but flatter. First I swipe it with softened butter (you can also spray it with nonstick spray), and then I use parchment paper to fashion a sling that helps lift it out. The butter/oil is important for not only making sure the non-parchment parts of the cake don’t stick, but also for sticking the parchment in place.
I used standard parchment paper from a roll and cut out a circle by tracing the ramekin on paper with a pencil. Then I cut out the circle. The circle should either fit exactly into the pan or be a tiny bit smaller. I’m a terrible cutter, and can rarely cut a straight line, so my circle is typically asymmetrical. But that’s ok too; just make sure that the parchment circle is not so big that you have excess paper that’s balled up at the edges.
Next, I rip off two wide strips for the sling, which will help us pull the cake out from the baking dish. You do not need much overhang of paper. In fact, if they are too long, there’s always a chance they will burn getting close to a heating element. The sling should be long enough to reach the top of the ramekin so you can grip and pull out the cheesecake. Even if the cake cooks to the top of the ramekin, it will shrink back as it cools.
If you don’t have a ramekin, you can also use a 7 inch deep pan (about 4 inches). Since this cheesecake cooks in a water bath, a spring form pan may not be the best idea, unless you are POSITIVE that it will not leak-either batter out or water in. No matter what pan you use, use the same parchment technique. Only oil the pan. Do not oil the parchment as it’s already non stick and putting extra oil will cause you to bake up a wet gummy layer on the parchment.
Make the Batter
Then I start making the batter. Make sure to bring the butter and cream cheese to room temperature so that it can blend easily. I usually leave both out on the counter before I go to sleep, so the next day it’s there, ready for me.
This recipe uses a lot of bowls and equipment-yeah sorry about that! But there’s just no way around it. Because this cake is so simple, no real garnishes or add-ins to distract your eye, every step is important to achieve that smooth silky texture and lush mouthfeel. You will be rewarded in the end, so roll up your sleeves and don’t get discouraged.
Now it’s time to make the meringue, which gives the Japanese cheesecake its trademark cloudlike texture. There a couple rules to whipping a great meringue. First, make sure your equipment is squeaky clean. Any oily residue on your bowl or whip will interfere with the meringue and you will not get the volume you want. Also, your hands should be very clean for the same reason. Finally, make sure that you separate the egg yolks from the whites cleanly. Any trace of yolk in the egg whites will also affect your meringue.
Egg whites are at the soft peak stage when they will briefly hold a shape before collapsing. They are soft and malleable, not the stiff shiny peaks that happen after beating for several minutes longer. Soft peaks are easier to fold into the batter, which will help you retain the volume (it’s all about volume people ;))
Adding the meringue to the base helps to lighten the cheesecake mixture so it doesn’t deflate the meringue when it all gets mixed together. If you’ve ever made a soufflé, this technique will be familiar to you. Once you add the lightened base to the rest of the meringue, mix gently, taking care to not deflate the meringue. It’s ok to have a couple of thin streaks of egg white, which is preferable to over mixing.
Now it’s time to bake. I bake my Japanese cheesecake in a water bath to help ensure a gentle, even heat.
Bake for an hour undisturbed, and then test with a skewer. It should come out mostly clean. I turn the oven off, leaving the door cracked open with a towel wedged in the crack. Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for at least another hour or two. This helps it set up so it’s not as jiggly when you try to remove it. The gentle cooling will help the cake from deflating. If you were to remove the cake from the oven immediately, the cold air would cause the cake to shrink down significantly. Don’t let your hard work go to waste!
Once the cake has cooled in the oven, transfer the ramekin to the counter and run a knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it’s free. Then grab the 2 parchment slings on the left with your left hand and the other slings with your right hand. Gently lift and transfer the cake to a serving plate.
You can serve this at room temperature when it’s at its fluffiest, most soufflé-like texture, but I prefer it after a few hours in the fridge. I like to simply garnish my cheesecake with a dusting of powdered sugar but some fresh berries would be nice too.
If you are a cheesecake fan, you cannot sleep on this one. There’s a reason Japanese Cheesecake is so Instagram and TikTok famous. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think. Rate and comment on the recipe below, and tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen-we love seeing your creations!
- 8 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 4 egg yolks (at room temperature)
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup granulated sugar+2 Tablespoons for pan
- ½ a large lemon, zested and then juiced (you should yield 2 Tablespoons juice)
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (1.125 ounces) all purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 egg whites at room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
For the pan:
baking spray or 2 Tablespoons melted butter
- powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and move the oven rack to the middle.
- Liberally grease the inside of your 7½ inch soufflé ramekin with the softened butter using your fingers (you can also use the oil spray).
- Line the ramekin: Cut two strips of parchment paper that are 2½ inches wide and 15 inches in length (this was the length of my parchment roll. It’s fine if yours is a little longer). These strips will form a sling that will help you pull the cake out. Next cut out a 7½ inch circle for the bottom of the pan. Lay the long strips for the sling first, forming a cross, and let any excess paper hang over the sides of the pan. Next place the circle down. (Don’t oil the parchment paper; it will create a wet gooey layer.)
- Combine the milk and heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds until barely warm.
- Add the cream cheese and butter to a bowl and whisk for a couple minutes until smooth. Add the yolks one at a time, mixing well each time. Then add the heavy cream, milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and flour. Whisk well again.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer into another bowl to make sure there are no lumps of flour or coagulated egg. Mix in lemon peel, lemon juice, and vanilla. Set aside.
- In a clean bowl, add the egg whites and beat on medium speed (6 on a stand mixer) for a couple of minutes until they become foamy.
- Add the sugar in a very slow stream while the egg whites continue to beat. Raise the speed to high (8 or 9 on a stand mixer). Beat until soft peaks form. (When you lift the whisk attachment, the meringue forms a peak but then it slowly flops over.)
- Add a third of the meringue to the batter and mix gently using a spatula until the white meringue is completely mixed in. Now pour the lightened batter into the meringue bowl and fold gently until you don’t see unmixed meringue (small streaks are ok).
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
- Place the cake pan in a deep baking tray or a large deep oven safe skillet. Fill the baking tray with cool water about 1½ inches high.
- Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Test the center with a skewer. It should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.
- Turn off the oven, crack the door open (you can sandwich a kitchen towel in the opening if the oven door will not stay open), and leave the cake in the oven for 1-2 hours to gently cool.
- Remove the cake from the water bath and set it on the kitchen counter.
- Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it. Pull the cake out using the slings.
- You can serve the cake at room temperature which is where it will be extra soft and most souffle-like. Otherwise, chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.
- Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.
*Preheating your oven is crucial. Turn on your oven before you start the recipe. If you do not have an automatic beeper letting you know your oven is ready, let your oven heat up for 25 minutes before you start baking. Check that the inside of the oven is the correct temperature as some ovens have a variance between the actual temperature and what the setting indicates.
*My baking setting is automatically set to a convection (or forced fan) oven. If you’re using a standard oven, you may need to cook the cake for 10 minutes longer.
*If you do not have a soufflé ramekin, a 4 inch deep 7 inch cake pan (that is not springform) is best. But if the cake pan has a springform bottom, cover the bottom and side of the cake pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil so that the foil continuously covers the bottom and the side to just below the rim. You want to make sure no batter leaks out and no water leaks into the pan.
*Getting the right texture on the meringue is very important. Soft peaks means when you lift the whisk attachment or dip in a clean spoon, the meringue forms a peak but then slowly folds over. Do not beat too much or you will get a hard peak where the meringue looks very stiff and will actually start to ooze liquid. It will be very difficult to fold this into your base and you will get much less rise in your cake. If you’re not sure, it’s always better to use slightly under beaten eggs than overbeaten.
*The temperature of ingredients is very important in baking. Use room temperature eggs. If your eggs are straight from the fridge, put them in warm water for 10 minutes. Butter should also be room temperature, which normally means you should be able to make an indent if you push a finger into it. In general, room temperature butter should not be greasy soft. But in this case, we are mixing it into cream cheese so it’s fine if it’s very soft.
*A kitchen scale is your best friend when baking because it is the most accurate. If you do not have one, make sure you always stir your dry ingredients before scooping. Never pack flour into a measuring cup. And always level off with the back of a butter knife if using the scooping method.
Keywords: cheesecake, dessert, sweets, holiday, japanese