Dairy in Asian Cuisine?
December 17, 2009 12:23 AM Subscribe
Why do dairy products have a limited geographic range in Asian cuisine?
posted by Yiggs to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've noticed a trend in my (admittedly limited) experience of Asian food: dairy products seem to be rarely featured, if not totally absent, in the cuisines of China, Japan, and some of Southeast Asia. Yet, just over the Himalayas, Indian cuisine has ghee and paneer, and the Mongolians have kumis. This also seems to be correlated with geographic distributions of lactose intolerance, with China, Japan and Southeast Asia having the highest rates in the world.
My initial guess was that, historically, geography prevented cultures with dairy-heavy cuisines from intermingling with dairy-free cultures - either the Himalayas or the Gobi Desert may have limited the movement of cattle into mainland China. But China seems to have plenty of opportunities to intermingle with other cultures, be it the Silk Road, the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty or even later trading with the Portuguese or Dutch. Why would the use of dairy products - which, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, greatly increases the amount of calories extracted from livestock - not be adopted by these cultures?