what cheese for ema datse
February 6, 2016 7:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking at recipes for the Bhutanese chili cheese stew ema datse. I've seen ideas ranging from kraft singles (for the texture) to stilton (for the sourness and approximation of half-rotted yak cheese). I've seen mixes of jack and feta. Anyone with experience in this department?
posted by colin_l to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have eaten this, prepared in the US by Bhutanese refugees. They used feta.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:07 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have never eaten anything like ema datse, but it sounds delicious! It also sounds a lot like TexMex chile con queso in concept. There's one weird trick for the texture: sodium citrate. It's a magic mostly-flavorless ingredient that makes cheese melt smoothly, without breaking. Totally fixes lumps and greasiness in melted cheese. I've never tried it with something as unmelty as dry aged feta, but it works great with dry cheddar and jack.

You can by it on Amazon easily but only in relatively large quantities, about $15 worth. In theory a local store might carry it labelled as "citrus salt" but I've never seen it.
posted by Nelson at 8:17 AM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I could swear I've seen yak cheese in the store in Victoria BC. We have yaks in BC and there is a milk purveyor that mentions cheese being available ... They may be able to help you find some?
posted by chapps at 8:24 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a copy of Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford's Mangoes & Curry Leaves, which is their South Asian cookbook. They have this recipe (on p. 173) and they use feta.

They note that the original cheese is called churpi and is "like a cross between feta and farmer's cheese," isn't extremely salty, and doesn't melt when heated, which are qualities that may help you in your search to replicate this. (Good luck, it sounds amazing!)
posted by andrewesque at 9:25 AM on February 6, 2016

Best answer: I've eaten this in the US and they used a mix of all three- Feta, Blue Cheese, and American. Heavy on the American to my palate.
posted by JPD at 9:42 AM on February 6, 2016

I don't think sodium citrate will make feta melty BTW. What the sodium citrate does is keep the protein and fat emulsion in place when you melt a cheese that wants to melt. I don't think it will make something that doesn't naturally melt, melt?
posted by JPD at 9:44 AM on February 6, 2016

Best answer: Actually I am wrong. The modernist cuisine guys claim it will work with Feta.
posted by JPD at 9:46 AM on February 6, 2016

If you want to try sodium citrate, you can get 50 grams (about 2 oz) for $5.99 at Modernist Pantry.

Note: you will need a fairly precise scale if you go this route.
posted by O9scar at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I fear "In theory a local store might carry it labelled as "citrus salt"" is a bit of a far-fetched theory; Google is adamant that "citrus salt" is salt flavoured with citrus. Any chance you are thinking not of sodium citrate but of citric acid, which is sometimes on shelves as sour salt...?

The idea (making non-creamy cheese creamy with help) is perhaps why you are seeing suggestions for Kraft processed cheese. Apparently there are hard and soft varieties of chhurpi, so I have no idea what to think about whether or not a meltable cheese is authentic. This mentions the addition of yoghurt and "limitless variations of this dish," and recommends some substitute cheeses, this suggests feta and chèvre, this claims the yak cheese is "creamy"...
posted by kmennie at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've never had ema datse, but in case you've never heard of it, I'm throwing panela out there. It's a fresh Mexican non-melting cheese. Compared to queso fresco, it's less dry, crumbly, and salty. It's moist, rubbery, and creamy with a briny taste of fresh dairy.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:44 PM on February 6, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks, all. First go shopping was done prior to reading replies, and I went with a combo of blue and goat cheese. It was tasty, but (granted without knowing what it should be like) clearly lacking.

Tonight picked up a 2lb tub of "persian style creamy feta" at my local Iranian grocery, and it's *amazing* to just eat by the spoonful, and I've got high hopes for round two!

thank you!
posted by colin_l at 7:43 PM on February 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

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