You can read my piece about making cheese in Lunan County, near the Stone Forest in Yunnan Province, on the BBC website, or listen to the podcast of my voice on the same page. As you’ll see/hear, the kind of cheese they make there is a fresh, unsalted goat’s cheese that is somewhat reminiscent of Cypriot Anari. It’s delicious pan-fried and served with a dip of sugar or salt and Sichuan pepper; steamed with Yunnan ham; or stir-fried with other ingredients.
Another kind of Yunnan cheese just mentioned in passing in that piece is a speciality of the Bai people in northwestern Yunnan, especially Dali. I didn’t make it up there on my most recent trip, but came across it on the streets of Kunming. It’s a really unusual form of cheese known as ru shan 乳扇 (‘milk fans’).
Freshly-made cows’ milk curds are pulled and stretched into thin sheets, wrapped around sticks and hung up until they are yellow and leather dry. They may be served in a number of ways. One of them is to warm and soften them over a charcoal grill, spread them with the filling of your choice (rose-petal jam is the favourite), and then wrap them around a stick so they can be eaten like lollipops.
They are warm and chewy, with what the Han Chinese would say was a strong ‘muttony’ taste 膻味, which is to say a heady whiff of cheesiness, which goes rather well with the floral sweetness of the jam. (In this short video , the narrator warns that people unused to the taste of milk may find their flavour offputting.)
In a restaurant, I also had the chance to try them deep-fried, which was equally exciting: the ‘fans’ look like yellow prawn crackers, and when you bite into them they disintegrate with a very pleasing combination of fragile crispness and soft chewiness.