Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Cheese & Chinese Cuisine?

Chinese

  • Please log in to reply
90 replies to this topic

#1 Richard Kilgore

Richard Kilgore
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 6,376 posts
  • Location:home, home on the range....

Posted 16 September 2004 - 09:53 AM

Someone asked me this morning if cheese is used in cooking in China, and curiously enough I had been wondering the same thing a few days ago.

So what's the story?

#2 trillium

trillium
  • participating member
  • 1,515 posts

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:24 AM

Someone ask me this morning if cheese is used in cooking in China, and curiously enough I had been wondering the same thing a few days ago.

So what's the story?

View Post



The story is that traditionaly not a lot of dairy products were used in Chinese cuisine, cows/cow products/beef not being a popular agricultural product, while pigs on the other hand, get used from their snouts to their toes.

regards,
trillium

#3 Laksa

Laksa
  • participating member
  • 874 posts
  • Location:Verona, NJ

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:38 AM

I added cheese to fried rice once. It wasn't as bad as you might be able to imagine.

Traditionally, no.

But you do see dairy products used in dishes like butter shrimp (nai you xia) on contemporary menus.

#4 bleudauvergne

bleudauvergne
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,235 posts
  • Location:Lyon, France

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:40 AM

Most of my Chinese friends thought cheese was a disgusting rotten milk product, when I lived in China. It was almost impossible to find unless imported (ah I had a source of French brie...). There was one rather bland local cheese made in Beijing, like a Babayel (sp?) that managed to stay in business over three years, so I guess they sold enough. It was a relatively new product.

Not everyone I knew was lactose intolerant, contrary to the popular belief that all Chinese are. People just thought that cheese was disgusting, that's all.

On the other hand, tofu, served in all forms, new old, smoked, rotten, molding, and fermented, was always popular. :smile:

I ate it all.

#5 Jon Tseng

Jon Tseng
  • participating member
  • 2,077 posts

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:41 AM

Theres a rubbery goat/cows milk cheese you get in yunnan. Get thick slices of it fried

Rubing is the chinese word for it, I think

But generally yes, what the other folks said about no dairy products - hence frequency of lactose intolerance amongst chinese too

cheers

J
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

#6 Big Bunny

Big Bunny
  • participating member
  • 314 posts
  • Location:Baltimore, MD

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:46 AM

I've occasionally had deep-fried wontons filled with cream cheese and curry powder or brie and dried tomatoes. Not AT ALL traditional, but quite good.

BB
Food is all about history and geography.

#7 Pan

Pan
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 15,544 posts
  • Location:East Village, Manhattan

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:47 AM

What about yogurt and whey? How long have those been widely available and consumed in northern parts of China like Beijing?

#8 SobaAddict70

SobaAddict70
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 7,521 posts
  • Location:Hobbiton, the Shire

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:52 AM

Part of the answer has to do with the amount of arable land in China. Consider the amount of resources (i.e., grass, water, animal feed) it takes to raise a single cow, compared to a single pig -- and then multiply that by a factor of one hundred.

Northern China is different because the animals used to produce yogurt and whey had wide expanses of land to roam around in. People in that part were more nomadic (i.e. Mongols) and less agriculturally based.

I'm sure the answer is a bit more complex than that summation, but it's good for starters.

Soba

#9 bleudauvergne

bleudauvergne
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,235 posts
  • Location:Lyon, France

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:53 AM

Yougurt, yes, available. But I don't know if that's an import or not. Not used in cooking, normally.

#10 chengb02

chengb02
  • participating member
  • 331 posts
  • Location:Chicago and Beijing

Posted 16 September 2004 - 12:03 PM

It is an interesting issue because yoghurt and milk are readily found and often come from Inner Mongolia or the Beijing "suburbs." Yet despite the popularity of these things (and their existence is nothing new), cheese hasn't caught on.
I do know of a friend who adds cheese when making Chinese style curry, it shocked me at first (especially because I found out after eating her curry a number of times).

#11 Laksa

Laksa
  • participating member
  • 874 posts
  • Location:Verona, NJ

Posted 16 September 2004 - 12:07 PM

I do know of a friend who adds cheese when making Chinese style curry, it shocked me at first (especially because I found out after eating her curry a number of times).

View Post


Is the cheese more like Indian style paneer or a Western style cheese? Sounds fascinating. I want to use more cheese in my curries.

#12 chengb02

chengb02
  • participating member
  • 331 posts
  • Location:Chicago and Beijing

Posted 16 September 2004 - 12:11 PM

Is the cheese more like Indian style paneer or a Western style cheese?  Sounds fascinating.  I want to use more cheese in my curries.

View Post


its a plain, old Wisconsin cheddar

#13 durian

durian
  • participating member
  • 30 posts

Posted 16 September 2004 - 12:24 PM

SobaAddict has it right about arable land, etc. What little milk there is in China is traditionally reserved for babies and old people who have problems eating other things.

If you think how long it took for tofu and yogurt to gain widespread acceptance in the US, you will have some idea of the image problem that cheese has in Chinese places. The barrier is especially high for some extreme cases on both sides here---something called stinky tofu on the Chinese side, nowhere near as pungent as Limburger or genuine German Muenster.

Westerners have figured out how to integrate the most bland and generic tofu into some dishes, but they usually have no idea of the huge variety of tofu products available in a Chinatown, or what to do with them.

Dairy products are gaining more acceptance in some Chinese and Southeast Asian places, but I expect cheese to be last in line for this. Former British and French colonies already have a tradition of putting milk and cream in coffee. Ice cream is popular anywhere the weather is hot. During one five year span in Taiwan, I saw yogurt go from "revolting" to "trendy". Cheesecake is popular, and so was something called "cheese cake," meaning a cake with some cheese incorporated into the batter, lending additonal richness to the dessert. Cheese combined with sugar in a pastry is much less likely to be rejected. Think 'cheese danish' or 'cannoli'.

More savory cheese will probably make its first inroads through fast food chains. People in Taiwan liked to try pizza, but routinely questioned the appeal of its rubbery mozzerella. They like going to McDonalds, but I don't know how many of them want a cheeseburger rather than a hamburger.

As it stands now, cheese still seems like something that has spoiled. Cantonese people revel in the fact that the Cantonese phrase for "pig shit" sounds a lot like "chee-sz".

There is another issue here too. Like some French people, some Chinese people are often smugly self-satisfied with the cuisine of their own country and aren't terribly interested in what other countries' cuisines might have to offer. Dairy products have gained more ground in pastries because China already a has a lively pastry tradition. Lack of curiousity and eclecticism will keep cheese on the fringes of Chinese cuisine for quite a while, I think.

#14 jo-mel

jo-mel
  • participating member
  • 1,633 posts
  • Location:New Jersey via Massachusetts

Posted 16 September 2004 - 06:08 PM

K.C. Chang and Anderson cover this subject in their respective books on Chinese culture.

They note that altho the lactose problem may be a factor, that issue doesn't seem to affect Indians and Central Asians who have the same intolerance. Those peoples simply add the bacteria which neutralizes the problem. Chang talks about milk being used all over the Far East today but "There is still some resistance to rank cheese, which we love, and we were amused to find it considered by our informants as the putrefied mucous discharge of an animal's guts. But, after all, many Westerners resist strong cheeses, too."

Many dairy products were available during the occupations by 'barbarians' from the North, and when they left, the Han Chinese felt that reliance on dairy food would mean reliance on tarde with those 'barbarians'.

Chang mentions the cheese produced AND used in Yunnan Province, but "the technology is probably derived from the Mongols and their followers and concentrated among the Yunnan Muslims~~~~~~~~"

I had read, somewhere else, that altho milk products were available and used during those occupations, ----when those Dynasties were overthrown, cultural superiority stepped in and they rid themseves of those dairy items and their reminder of the foreign influence.

#15 chengdude

chengdude
  • participating member
  • 34 posts

Posted 16 September 2004 - 07:51 PM

For drinking at least, milk and milk products are widely available in China and are hugely popular, be it in UHT boxes, plastic bags, refrigerated cartons, bottles of yogurt, or sold fresh from the back of a motorcycle; one aisle of any given supermarket is given to shelf-stable milk products and one section of refrigerated case is given to their fresh counterparts. There's whole milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, coffee milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, peanut milk, walnut milk, and sugary, watery yogurt-milk products; there's also French, New Zealand, Australian, Dutch, Italian, and Danish butters and cheeses, Kraft Philly and New Zealand cream cheeses, and Dannon and local-made yogurts in a range of flavors. There are at least 130 Pizza Huts now open in China's cities, which isn't many numerically (contrast with over 1,000 KFC's), but is a lot considering that small pizzas ("9") are 6-7 dollars and mediums ("12") are 8-10 dollars. I will agree that the "spoiled milk" flavor is the final frontier, though, as yogurts especially are essentially impossible to find without added sugar. Oh yeah, there's ice cream too in a range of flavors and novelties that would put Good Humor to shame...my favorite is Yili's "Ku Kafei" - bitter coffee ice cream dipped in chocolate on a stick.

#16 liuzhou

liuzhou
  • participating member
  • 2,054 posts
  • Location:Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Posted 16 September 2004 - 10:27 PM

one aisle of any given supermarket is given to shelf-stable milk products and one section of refrigerated case is given to their fresh counterparts


That may be true in provincial capitals and other large cities. But in my experience, not true elsewhere.

#17 herbacidal

herbacidal
  • participating member
  • 3,127 posts
  • Location:Philly, sorta

Posted 16 September 2004 - 11:07 PM

Everything said thus far in this thread I agree with entirely, but I wanted to highlight a few points.

Westerners have figured out how to integrate the most bland and generic tofu into some dishes, but they usually have no idea of the huge variety of tofu products available in a Chinatown, or what to do with them.


It's interesting to me that Westerners continue to have perceptions of tofu being especially bland and tasteless.
I assume those with such impressions don't think of tofu as a conduit for flavor nor are have they had tofu presented in a tasty manner.

As it stands now, cheese still seems like something that has spoiled.  Cantonese people revel in the fact that the Cantonese phrase for "pig shit" sounds a lot like "chee-sz".

Really? I wasn't aware of that belief.

There is another issue here too.  Like some French people, some Chinese people are often smugly self-satisfied with the cuisine of their own country and aren't terribly interested in what other countries' cuisines might have to offer.  Dairy products have gained more ground in pastries because China already a has a lively pastry tradition.  Lack of curiousity and eclecticism will keep cheese on the fringes of Chinese cuisine for quite a while, I think.

View Post




This is most definitely true, the smug self-satisfaction bit. It's true with intra-China cuisines as well.
Obviously, we all agree that Cantonese cuisine is by far the best tasting food.
Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

#18 Gary Soup

Gary Soup
  • legacy participant
  • 865 posts

Posted 16 September 2004 - 11:21 PM

Obviously, we all agree that Cantonese cuisine is by far the best tasting food.

View Post


That was an editorial "we," of course.

#19 jo-mel

jo-mel
  • participating member
  • 1,633 posts
  • Location:New Jersey via Massachusetts

Posted 17 September 2004 - 01:12 PM

'best tasting'

I have a little trouble with that. Cantonese is certainly the 'most respected', but how does one determine 'best in taste' unless you have identical foods/dishes.

Am I opening a can of worms?

#20 chengb02

chengb02
  • participating member
  • 331 posts
  • Location:Chicago and Beijing

Posted 17 September 2004 - 01:30 PM

'best tasting'

I have a little trouble with that. Cantonese is certainly the 'most respected', but how  does one determine 'best in taste' unless you have identical foods/dishes.

Am I opening a can of worms?

View Post


I think, hope, that the statement that cantonese food is the best was sarcastic and a demonstration of the "smug, self-satisfaction bit."

#21 Stone

Stone
  • participating member
  • 3,626 posts
  • Location:New York

Posted 17 September 2004 - 01:34 PM

A friend of mine once worked in Hong Kong doing marketing for a large American dairy/foods company. One afternoon she sat in a three-hour meeting of people analysing the dismal sales of their cheese products. After listening to all this sturm and drang, she raised her hand, "Isn't the problem that the Chinese don't like cheese?"

She also mentioned that Chinese think Westerners smell badly because of all the dairy they consume.

#22 hzrt8w

hzrt8w
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,855 posts
  • Location:Sacramento, CA

Posted 17 September 2004 - 02:32 PM

As it stands now, cheese still seems like something that has spoiled.  Cantonese people revel in the fact that the Cantonese phrase for "pig shit" sounds a lot like "chee-sz".



I really have problem with this statement. The fact that the Cantonese translation of the word Cheese sounds close to "pig s**t" is coincidental. In English/Cantonese translations, almost anything that ends with (or start with) an "S" or "CE" would be translated as something that sounds like "s**t". As noted months ago, that goes for BUS, TAXI, Store, Toast, and so on.

Saying that Cantonese people purposely portrait Cheese as something disgusting (to eat) is a total lack of understanding of the Cantonese, or in a bit narrower scope, Hong Kongers' culture and language. Whether someone likes the smell of cheese is up to the individual. To broadly implicate that Cantonese/Hong-Kongers take pleasure in associating “pig s**t” with cheese because they don't like the smell of cheese is a problematic logic.

While the rest of China may not have been exposed to cheese and daily products. Hong Kongers have plenty of food items made with or related to cheese and other dairy products due to many years of influences from America, UK, Australia and Europe. The new generations who grew up in Hong Kong all drink milk as a fact of life. That's why companies like "The Dairy Farm" in Hong Kong became so successful in the past decades.


I don’t want to get in the fight of my cuisine can beat up your cuisine. I think everybody has his/her own favorite and just let it be so.

Edited by hzrt8w, 17 September 2004 - 02:51 PM.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"

#23 herbacidal

herbacidal
  • participating member
  • 3,127 posts
  • Location:Philly, sorta

Posted 17 September 2004 - 02:53 PM

That was an editorial "we," of course.

View Post


Editorial? Perhaps. Sarcastic,as Cheng suggests? Definitely.

Edited by herbacidal, 17 September 2004 - 02:54 PM.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

#24 jo-mel

jo-mel
  • participating member
  • 1,633 posts
  • Location:New Jersey via Massachusetts

Posted 17 September 2004 - 03:55 PM

I think, hope, that the statement that cantonese food is the best was sarcastic and a demonstration of the "smug, self-satisfaction bit."

View Post


Gotcha!! I was taking it too seriously!

My New England Thanksgiving Dinner is the best in the country!

There is only one BBQ -- South Carolina's! (ever get into a discussion about BBQ with a group of Southerners?!!)

#25 Ben Hong

Ben Hong
  • participating member
  • 1,383 posts

Posted 17 September 2004 - 04:03 PM

There must be some basis in fact to the adage, "to marry in Soochow, to eat in Kwangchow" is there not? :raz:

#26 Laksa

Laksa
  • participating member
  • 874 posts
  • Location:Verona, NJ

Posted 17 September 2004 - 08:02 PM

A friend of mine once worked in Hong Kong doing marketing for a large American dairy/foods company.  One afternoon she sat in a three-hour meeting of people analysing the dismal sales of their cheese products.  After listening to all this sturm and drang, she raised her hand, "Isn't the problem that the Chinese don't like cheese?"

She also mentioned that Chinese think Westerners smell badly because of all the dairy they consume.

View Post

Could the problem be that large American dairy food companies make lousy cheese? :wink:

My parents used to tell me when I was a kid that if I eat too much bread -- more bread than rice -- my (Chinese) eyes will turn pale and become shades of blue or grey. :rolleyes:

#27 jo-mel

jo-mel
  • participating member
  • 1,633 posts
  • Location:New Jersey via Massachusetts

Posted 17 September 2004 - 08:21 PM

There must be some basis in  fact to the adage, "to marry in Soochow, to eat in Kwangchow" is there not?  :raz:

View Post


I truely believe in Chi zai Guangzhou----, but isn't that because of the freshest of ingredients are available and the food is prepared in such a way as to keep to the Tao belief of things in the natural state? That the variety and cooking control add to the reputation of Cantonese cooking? Doesn't it mean that Sichuan or other regional foods are not less or better tasting, it's just that they are more complicated than the simple purity of the Southern regions?

#28 Yuki

Yuki
  • participating member
  • 428 posts

Posted 17 September 2004 - 08:21 PM

Could the problem be that large American dairy food companies make lousy cheese?  :wink:

My parents used to tell me when I was a kid that if I eat too much bread -- more bread than rice -- my (Chinese) eyes will turn pale and become shades of blue or grey.  :rolleyes:

View Post


The most dominant cheese product in the refrigerator of most supermarket is probably processed cheese slice(talking about introducing good cheese to the Chinese agh.....). Cream cheese is also popular probably due to Hong Kong's obsession with cheesecakes. Other types of cheese such as mascarphone for tiramisu and flavoured cream cheese are also common now. But over all, eating cheese alone is probably not popular.

And now, everyone in Hong Kong seems to be on a diet, so eating large amount of fat is probably not recommended by the nutritionist.

Anyways, can anyone think of a way to incorportae Cheese into Chinese cooking? I know that Tofu is now can be used in many Western dishes, but how about the reverse?

#29 Pan

Pan
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 15,544 posts
  • Location:East Village, Manhattan

Posted 17 September 2004 - 08:57 PM

Cheese as a substitute for stinky tofu???

#30 Gary Soup

Gary Soup
  • legacy participant
  • 865 posts

Posted 17 September 2004 - 09:06 PM

Cheese as a substitute for stinky tofu???

View Post


We once had a dinner party, all Chinese food, but our guest brought pears and gorgonzola cheese as a dessert. My wife liked it so much she later used the leftover cheese to stuff fried tofu and made a "mock stinky tofu."





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Chinese