Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 708 : Chinese Cheese?

In preparation for tonight's cheese trotting tasting, I had to find a Chinese cheese. You might ask me, why? Well that's because there was meant to be a cheese from nine different groups' points of origin, more on that later, but for the moment let's get back to this whole Chinese cheese thing.

Is there cheese in China?

Yes there is!

It is not prevalent in traditional cuisine partially because of the fact that the domestication of cows in China is a recent development. But it surely isn't as simple as that. The cultural and societal constructs within China do not breed an interest and a love of cheese in the same manner that Western society does.

There are indigenous cheeses present in different regions of China, not that many that's for sure, but for example in the Fujian province, there is a cheese called Nguri. It is ping pong ball sized and is crafted with milk and vinegar and then consequently bathed in brine -- salty and bright on your tongue or so I have heard. Nguri and other indigenous Chinese cheeses do not tend to be imported into the US nor would they fall under the same sort of taste and flavor profiles as Western style cheeses.

That was until Marc de Ruiter opened Yellow Valley Cheese outside of Shanghai. De Ruiter crafts Dutch style Goudas utilizing milk from Chinese farmers -- attempting to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cheese customs. But again, these are not imported to the US!

So what was I going to do for my Chinese cheese for tonight's class?

Step One: Call Pearl River Market downtown
Step Two: Spend an hour on the phone explaining what I needed
Step Three: Trek down to the Chinese supermarket that was recommended to me by the fourth nice woman on the phone at Pearl River.
Step Four: Walk around supermarket for thirty minutes
Step Five: Talk to five different people till I was able to explain what I was looking for.
Step Six: End up being directed to the Fermented Bean Curd jars which I was informed is a form of Chinese cheese.

You must be thinking did she just tell me that Fermented Bean Curd is considered a cheese like product in China?

Yes! You would be right. Utilized as a condiment on a variety of dishes, it takes on the form of a cheese like substance in Chinese culture.

This fermented bean curd even has a similar mouthfeel to certain dairy products because of the breakdown of proteins over the course of the bean curd's air drying and fermentation. Granted the flavor profile is distinctly different from cheese but it is easily malleable and blends with a variety of different tastes.

Even resembles feta from a distance right?

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