Given that x = Asian style cooking and y = a type of cheese, find y given that x + y = tasty
July 3, 2012 3:06 PM   Subscribe

CookingFilter: I've been making a bunch of Asian fusion dishes lately and I don't think I've ever been satisfied with a component crucial to my understanding of food: the cheese!

The cheese I've used so far (provolone for the bulgolgi shooter's sandwich, Swiss in the banchan/routuan poutine) conflicted with the sweeter, tangier tastes of the Korean (though it was okay with the Chinese meatballs). From the Western perspective, the cheese helps enhance the fatness and the heartiness of the meat but here it smothers the the lighter flavors. What kind of cheese bolsters the fragrancy of that sweet, peppery, garlic-based flavor popular in many Asian dishes?
posted by dubusadus to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Paneer
posted by piyushnz at 3:14 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe feta, or queso blanco? They're both softer and tangier cheeses. But IDK in general if cheese works well with Asian fusion.
posted by spunweb at 3:15 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Maybe this is why processed American-style cheese seems to be more popular (relatively) in Korea and Japan. I'm thinking cheese-stuffed chikuwa and budae chigae.
posted by WasabiFlux at 3:16 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mind instantly rebels at the thought of most East Asian foods with cheese added.

Looking at a couple of websites with Asian fusion recipes, most of them seem to not use much if any cheese. I only see cheese mentioned for things that aren't that Asian, like lamb burgers (how is that Asian fusion?) or "creamy miso pasta", which looks like it's basically Fettucine Alfredo with mushrooms and a little miso paste.

The only exception would be Indian fusion recipes, because north Indian food sometimes has paneer. I also have a vague memory of some velveeta-esque nuclear provolone-wannabe from when I was in India, but I don't think it's particularly authentic.
posted by Sara C. at 3:38 PM on July 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

I've never liked cheese in Asian fusion dishes -- something about it just stands out and tastes gross to me. You might be the same way.

A tiny crumble of cotija cheese might be OK on something that has a lot of cilantro on it, perhaps something Vietnamese? There's some Vietnamese/Mexican crossover flavors, and that might do OK.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:51 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would think Ricotta would do this pretty well. It's a mild flavor and doesn't have overwhelming body.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:51 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: I'd try mozzarella, string cheese, or queso Oaxaca. It has that gooeyness and oomph that you find in a lot of war-influenced dishes, like dakgalbi. That chewy gooeyness is what it's all about, for me at least. Alternatively, I actually think Monterey Jack might not be so bad, and they put it on the fries at Chego.
posted by spaceheater at 3:58 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: My thoughts are that you should use something extremely mild and melty, like brie. Then the sweet/hot flavor will spread out over the cheese and you get to taste more of it.

Alternatively, you could use mayonnaise. Kewpie mayonnaise is popular as a condiment with many East Asian dishes and has similar fatty/creamy qualities.

Asian meat dishes generally highlight the spices pretty well using the fat in the meat. Smothering all that work with cheese seems, at best, counterproductive. Also as an Asian-American this question is simultaneously intriguing me and giving me the howling fantods.

posted by rhythm and booze at 4:01 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

A lot of sushi in the US has cream cheese. I find it fairly jarring though, especially if there is a seaweed wrapper.
posted by BibiRose at 4:07 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Parmesan in place of some traditional umami source (dashi, miso, fish sauce, shrimp paste, black bean paste, whatever) seems almost plausible. Or maybe panfried paneer in place of fried tofu.

But rich or fatty cheeses seem like a real non-starter to me in this sort of context. They've got this smeary clingy lingering quality that seems totally antithetical to the clean high-contrast flavors that make for good East Asian cooking. I love me some smeary clingy lingering cheese flavors, but this is really just not the place for it.

If you want to be a real smartass about it, some sort of congee/cheese-grits thing would make a good culinary joke. But at that point it would probably just be congee in name only.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:29 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: cheese is fat plus umami. You are already getting tons of umami elsewhere, so I'd say skip it in this context. If you need fat I like the mayo suggestion. Eggy custardy things too.
posted by JPD at 4:54 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the problem is the combo of sweet + fatty meat + fatty cheese. You have to pick only two out of these three. Think blt - fatty meat plus sweet tomato. Or the classic philly roast pork - lean meat with sharp provolone and bitter broccoli raab. Asian fusion could be leaving out one element - maybe grilled cheese with siracha?
posted by yarly at 4:56 PM on July 3, 2012

In my mind, the element in cheese that might play well with Asian food is it's element of rot. There are few dairy products in Asian cooking but lots of fermented ones. These dishes are usually strong tasting and use strongly-flavored fermented condiments like fish sauce. Western cooking tends to be about flavors that are similar. Asian about flavors that bounce off of one another. If I had to put cheese in an Asian dish, like Kalbi, I'd go with something like a really stinky bleu cheese and use it sparingly.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:26 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Goat cheese performs well in the presence of sweet and sour, being a bit of each itself.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:11 PM on July 3, 2012

Thinking about it more I think the best way to do this is not to try to incorporate cheese into a basically Asian-flavored dish, but rather to incorporate a couple Asian ingredients into something basically cheese-flavored.

In other words: everyone already knows that grilled cheese sandwiches taste better with sriracha. So there's your starting point.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:33 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In my opinion a good recipe is a combination of different flavor elements: sweetness, saltiness, spiciness, sourness, fat, umami, and texture. Taking a bulgogi sandwich for example: bulgogi by itself is already a riot of flavors (which is partly why it's so great with just some plain rice). It's mainly sweet, salty, and fatty. But Koreans will often pair it with kimchee, with adds a strong sour element (and some mild heat and crunchy texture). Kimchee+bulgogi is a match made in heaven.

Therefore, in my opinion, you need to look for cheeses that fit these complementary flavor profiles. Adding provolone to bulgogi in my opinion doesn't really add much. Aged provolone will just get outflavored by the bulgogi. A little goat cheese however definitely sounds interesting.
posted by rq at 7:48 PM on July 4, 2012

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