A basic introduction to European cheese in SingaporeNovember 18, 2015
As a general rule of thumb, we Asians don't normally get in contact with cheese. It is not something that's included in the diet we grew up with (unless you count paneer, or cottage cheese, in Indian cuisine) and for lactose intolerant people, well that's even more out of the question. However, I discovered the wonderful world of European cheese, like most Singaporeans, when I opened up my taste to love European cuisine and wine, and when I travelled to France, Switzerland, and more recently, Spain, Italy and Portugal. It has gotten to the point where I don't find it weird to have cheese after a meal, and often have a few chunks of them in my fridge at home for snacking!
Thanks to the EU and CNIEL (French Dairy Interbranch Organization) I had the chance to attend a European cheese appreciation masterclass with food and wine expert Mr. Edwin Soon at Scotts 27 to really learn about what I am eating blindly in the past.
I've learnt quite a few things, which I will share in an anecdotal fashion below (they are fact-checked with online research). There's also a $50 European cheese hamper to be won so read till the end!
1. Cheese is very old. It's known that cheese has been in existence more than 5,000 years ago! How it came about was when riders put cow's milk and water in a goat's stomach as a pouch and rode on horses with them, hence churning the milk with a component in the goat's stomach that fermented the milk. I really applaud the guy who first discovered that thick curd and decided maybe just taste it and see how it is like.
2. There are over 1,200 varieties of cheese alone in France. Not counting other countries. What I like is that the EU has very stringent checks when it comes to cheese production (apparently where it is aged is very important) so the highest quality and safety is assured. Very much like wine.
3. Cheese that's pasteurized lose half the intensity of taste, so most of the sophisticated cheeses out there are aged raw cheese.
4. Cheese can be categorized into 4 types according to moisture levels - soft, semi-soft, medium hard and semi-hard or hard. Then there's also the mold, such as soft ripened like the white mold on brie, washed rind, smear rind and blue (by injecting the cheese with particular types of fungus).
5. Different beverages can be paired with cheese, not just wine. This is particularly interesting for me to learn because one would typically only think that wine would go with cheese. What else would it go with? Well read on...
It felt like I was back in school. The school of cheese.
6) Aged Mimolette paired with Laphroaig 10 - Whiskey. Another surprising pairing, with whiskey! The Laphroaig is very peaty aka smokey, and counters the strong hard mimolette well. This dark orange coloured hard cheese by the way was the favorite among quite a few of us!
7) Calvados Camembert paired with Singleton - Whiskey. The camembert was quite 'smelly' but delicious with the whiskey, once again.