Chinese cheese adventures

Posted by Fuchsia on May 20, 2012
Regional cuisines, Unusual delicacies, Yunnan / 5 Comments

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’). Continue reading…

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A Chinese cheese tasting

Posted by Fuchsia on May 22, 2011
Chinese food culture, Unusual delicacies / 5 Comments

My piece about inviting some chefs in Shaoxing (known for its stinky beancurd and other smelly fermented foods) to taste a selection of fairly whiffy Neal’s Yard cheeses appears in this weekend’s Financial Times magazine. It was fascinating to be able to witness some very accomplished Chinese chefs tasting cheese for the first time in their lives, and gave me a new perspective on one of my favourite types of food.


Cheese for Chinese

Posted by Fuchsia on April 15, 2009
Ingredients, Unusual delicacies / 7 Comments

Apparently the makers of Stilton, that delicious blue-veined English cheese, are to start exporting it to China

As is widely known, the Chinese traditionally have little taste for cheese. In the past, eating it was seen as a barbarian habit.  The American anthropogist E.N. Anderson mentions in his The Food of China that he once heard it described as ‘the mucous discharge of some old cow’s guts, allowed to putrefy’ – a quote I always like to repeat to Westerners expressing disgust at Chinese eating habits.

When I lived in Chengdu in the 1990s, it was impossible to buy any cheese except for small packages, exorbitantly priced, of some horrible processed stuff – and even this was available only at the city’s single backpackers’ cafe, the Flower Garden. This was why, when a British TV producer for whom I’d done a little translation work asked me if her crew could bring me anything from London, the first thing that came to my mind was cheese. A week later, a large piece of Stilton, perfectly ripe, was handed over to me in a hotel lobby – it was such a treat I threw a dinner party in its honour.  

I’ve had little success in introducing cheese to my own Chinese friends. Most of them find it pretty revolting, if they’re willing to taste it at all. I’m very curious as to how the Stilton venture will go, particularly as Stilton is towards the more extreme end of the cheese scale in terms of its smell and appearance. The European ex-pat community will be thrilled, no doubt, but will they be able to persuade the locals to give it a try?