China and Cheese, a growing love affair ?
Although the dairy consumption per capita has more than doubled in less than a decade and China is expected to take over the USA as largest dairy market, cheese is still quite a stranger in the dairy pallet.
The Chinese government is stimulating the production and consumption of dairy and world’s largest farms today are in China with a dairy herd of almost 13 million cows. Chinese people consume average about 36kgs dairy per year and the government likes the consumption to at least triple over time.
Yogurt and milk are by far leading the dairy consumption while cheese consumption per capita was only about 100 grams per year in 2018.
Cheese is not totally foreign to Chinese culture, especially with minorities. There are the Rubing 乳饼 goat milk and Rushan乳扇 cow milk fresh cheeses by the Bai minority in southern Yunnan province. Rubing is usually steamed with local smoked ham or salted beef, or pan fried with chili peppers and salt while Rushan is typically grilled or deep fried topped with rose petal jam or fruit preserves.
Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia regions also make cheeses and cheese products from yak, goat and cow milk, usually hard cheeses to keep them through wintertime.
Even though cheese is not widespread in today’s Chinese cuisines, ancient recipes with cheese can be traced back to the 1500’s with notably the 16th century book Mr. Song’s Book of Nourishing Life from eastern Jiangsu Province (Shanghai) including a recipe for dumplings stuffed with cheese, poppy seeds, scallions, and spices. One of the world's oldest cheeses was found in Xinjiang few years ago, tracking back 3,600 years ago.
Today there are a few artisanal cheese makers in China with Liu Fang, le Fromager de Pekin being increasingly known all over China. With a cheese making education in France, Liu Fang has been making different cheeses since 2009, including ones inspired by traditional Chinese ingredients, such as soybean juice or rice wine. The pandemic has pushed Liu to go online this year and his store in Taobao (China’s largest B2C e-commerce platform) had 30,000 followers in no time with sales increased sixfold.
See this interesting movie about le Fromager de Pekin, Liu Fang
China ready for a cheese revolution ? Most probably but with own twists and innovations, Cheese tea and hotpot cheese balls already popular among many... 😊
Interesting links and sources regarding dairy and cheese in China
China’s dairy sector report by pwc
2 short movies and website about Liu Fang, le Fromager de Pekin
What are the opportunities for cheese suppliers in China ? by Peter Peverelli
China Dairy Market report by Daxue Consulting
All the Cheese in China
Yellow Valley Cheese Farm, China’s artisan Gouda cheese made in Shanxi Province by Marc de Ruiter (closed since 2018)