On milk in chinese cuisine...

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by siduri, Sep 5, 2013.

  1. siduri

    siduri

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    ... or the absence thereof.

    China is a very large country.  Is there any chinese cuisine that uses milk or actual cheese or other milk products?  It's just a curiosity.  A new chinese restaurant opened in Rome and it is actually good (most are not, and i do miss good chinese food).  We're eating there tonight but to prepare me for a totally milk-free dinner i just had a few pieces of cheese.

    I'm lactose dependent i guess/img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif but it got me thinking.  I would have a very hard time spending time in a country without milk. 

    Anyway, i wondered if there's any part of china that uses milk products in cooking.  There are some dishes with tomatoes, though tomatoes are quite rare.  But milk?
     
  2. cerise

    cerise Banned

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    Crab Rangoon (cream cheese) comes to mind, in American Chinese restaurants; and coconut milk dishes are served in Thai restaurants, i.e. Thai iced coffee.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    China has not had a history of enough arable land to support cattle grazing for dairying or even common eating. Beef is fairly uncommon until recently, kept mostly for a work animal, and not in large numbers. More in the North than in the South as well. 

    Horse milk, the Mongols have used that and even made alcohol from it. But that was more of the plains nomads, not the city or farm folk. 

    Indeed, cheese is found to be a disgusting food concept historically when Chinese encounter it, though it is changing more in the modern cuisine. 

    Rather, you find the products of soy milk, Tofu, aged, fermented, purposely molded and so on as the West did with Cheese.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermented_bean_curd
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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  5. ordo

    ordo

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    That's a curious statement for a cook. Food in China is one of the most amazing and extraordinary culinariy experiences you can have in the world. 

    Nevertheless, i had no trouble finding milk and cheese in WallMarts and many supermarkets, in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xian, etc. That was in 2009. Imagine now.
     
  6. vic cardenas

    vic cardenas

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    What an off beat comment. Coconut milk? Thai food? Really? 
     
  7. french fries

    french fries

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    What's so surprising? Thai people use a lot of coconut milk in their recipes. Many Thai desserts are based on coconut milk, many curries, especially the southern ones, many other Thai dishes as well, sometimes rice is cooked with coconut milk, etc...
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  8. cerise

    cerise Banned

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    What is off beat?  Take a look at a Thai Restaurant menu.

    Correction  I meant to say Thai ice tea (not coffee).
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  9. french fries

    french fries

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    AFAIK Thai iced tea is not made with coconut milk but with condensed/evaporated milk, no?
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  10. cerise

    cerise Banned

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    Delete
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  11. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Thai is not Chinese anyway, but point taken.
     
  12. vic cardenas

    vic cardenas

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    Yes, this is a discussion about Chinese food. Not Thai. Two completely different countries and cuisines. Coconut milk is not "dairy". 
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  13. vic cardenas

    vic cardenas

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    I know. I cook a lot of Thai food.
     
  14. french fries

    french fries

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    I see. I originally misunderstood your comment. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
     
  15. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Siduri, you are a picky eater. I can identify with you because I'm known to be picky in many ways. Pickiness is just a form of fear, a way to be rigid with clear boundaries. Sometimes that's useful and sometimes that's not. Getting out of your comfort zone with food might not seem important but it is. It helps us grow in maturity, and it especially helps us find a way to connect with other people and cultures. I know that sometimes my food culture (greek) sounds so exotic and healthy to many people. But going to Greece is a real downer for me because people there are so rigid about what they don't eat. Their food curiosity is non-existent. They can't fathom why I put parmesan on my pasta when there's perfectly good feta cheese there. They only have one use for each ingredient, green beans are always slow cooked with tomatoes, lentils are always made into a lemony soup, tomatoes can only ever be stuffed with rice and meat, French wine is an abomination, butter is disgusting, if you don't like baklava you're out of your mind, any diversion from the norm is weird and foreign and laughable.

    Growing up I stayed in my comfort zone for a long time. I remember I went out with friends when I was 18 - they all wanted to go to a vegetarian sushi restaurant that had just opened in the area. I was weirded out immediately. Nothing on the menu seemed familiar to me. I wasn't ready to try the rolls yet, so I chose some bowl of rice with seaweed because a bowl of something sounded more familiar than sushi. I remember thinking it was disgusting, how can anyone enjoy eating seaweed????? Over the years I've learned to relax a bit and try to enjoy other food for what it is. I now love sushi, although I don't think I'll ever like coconut milk.... it tastes like suntan lotion to me. I eat chinese food often (american of course), and it doesn't occur to me to want dairy at the same time. It's an odd thought. Eating cheese before you go seems a little excessive, I think your mind is playing games on you. I'm sure you know that you CAN go one meal without dairy and you'll be nutritionally fine. On the other hand, my Chinese friend tells me that Chinese people think it's weird that we westerners eat so many raw leafy vegetables. Lettuce is always cooked in Chinese cuisine and the thought of eating it raw is strange.

    Regarding dairy, as much as I love cheese, have you ever thought about how humans are the only species to every drink milk past infancy, and we're the only species to ever drink milk from other species? Some humans even think that breastfeeding is disgusting, meanwhile have no problem drinking cow's milk. How do you explain that? The most troublesome aspect of this is that baby cows are routinely denied the milk of their mothers and fed a type of formula, while we take the milk for ourselves. Over consumption? Me thinks yes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  16. dcarch

    dcarch

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    Typically, in many Chinese coffee shops, if you order coffee, it is always served with cream or Half & Half, and sugar already in the coffee, unless you ask them not to.

    dcarch
     
  17. siduri

    siduri

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    Anyway, i'm still curious if there are areas of china where milk is consumed.  actual milk, i mean.  (look up louis black on "soy juice" on you tube for a laugh)
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  18. ordo

    ordo

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    Tibet and locations in the border of Tibet consume yak milk, yogurts, cheese, etc.. It's a fundamental ingredient of their diet.
     
  19. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    India uses milk mostly in converted forms that are low lactose.

    Italy didn't have the population/resource stress that China did. Sure, China could have pursued dairying, but they didn't. I've not seen careful studies that indicate the specifics scientifically, but the reasons usually given are as I indicated:

    Beef is resource intensive. 

    Arable land is scarce compared to the size of the population. This is often tied to the rise of the wok techniques as well which are high fuel efficiency and short cooking times. 

    The Chinese cookbooks I have from the 70s and up to the mid 80s have very little beef in them. The beef dishes are all Northern China. They rely more on sugar in their marination than rice wine. Now, it's fairly common to use sugar instead of rice in Chinese marinades, but the other interesting part of that is this. Rice is a Southern China crop for the most part and wheat is a Northern China crop for the most part. You can see this split in the cuisine here with beef (and lamb somewhat too). The cow was a good plow animal for wheat fields, but not so good for a rice paddy perhaps?

    These beef dishes were based around older tougher animals and it is this heritage that gave rise to using baking soda to "tenderize" the beef.  From the mid-80s forward, beef becomes more common and the recipes are written to suggest that the beef is of a higher quality and more tender. Wine use in the marination increases and sugar decreases. Reflected in the cookbooks is the start of a change in the food culture of China. 

    Also, the Chinese have for the most part killed and cooked their meat fresh for the meal. Fish and chickens were bought live and killed at home. Pork, being larger was an exception and this was usually done in a shop that had the oven for roasting and handling the cuts of pork.  Cows are larger still and present more issues of scale.

    http://www.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/207694/CN-beef.pdf   is a study into Chinese Beef consumption. Consumption was pretty low until about 1990 (when markets opened and incomes rose). Price and difficulty of cooking are the two top hurdles to beef acceptance. Disliking smell and flavor were numbers 3 and 4. 

    It seems they didn't find beef that rewarding as food animals to concentrate enough of them together to develop a dairy culture and reward lactose tolerance.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  20. chicagoterry

    chicagoterry

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    My neighborhood is very Asian with numerous Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese supermarkets and it is impossible to find milk products in any of those markets, with the sole exception of sweetened condensed milk, which the Thai and Vietnamese markets sell for drinking in coffee. 

    I also don't see much beef in any of them. Duck, chicken, fish, seafood, pork---even pork blood by the pint, but not much beef.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013