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Sharon Finds Cheese in China

We ate some excellent food in Dali, in addition to the hand-raised local rice.

Fresh fruits, vegetables and fish are prominently displayed outside restaurants, and the colorful produce reminded us that Yunnan’s southern regions are tropical – lots of bananas, pineapples, coconuts and other foods that are more familiar in Thai cuisine than Chinese.

We found interesting street food, too. On our first evening stroll down Dali’s main street, Huang introduced us to a dish featuring three kinds of hand-made noodles – wheat, rice, and bean-flour-based – mixed together in a bowl with a rich and tasty gravy. Sami was starving and quickly took over the bowl.

The same vendor offered a fourth kind of short rice noodle served in a super-sweet broth as dessert. We all took one look and passed, so Huang helpfully devoured the snack.

Huang took us to terrific restaurants and for the most part we let him do the ordering, since he was familiar with local specialties.

We’re not big fish eaters, so trying Dali’s special clay-pot fish just once was enough.

But I was astounded and delighted to try another local specialty: fried cheese!

I had mentioned to Huang that I’m a real cheese fanatic, so he ordered this up to see what I thought.

Turns out it’s a cow’s milk cheese that is stretched and dried into thin sheets, which have a fairly long shelf-life. Just before serving, they’re deep-fried for less than a minute, then served as crispy wafers, topped with a heavy sprinkling of coarse, white sugar! Very surprising, yet very tasty. We enjoyed this (or rather, I did, usually polishing off the whole plate) on several occasions, including the Bai family dinner. In one case, the cheese sheets were wrapped around a small nugget of sweet red bean paste before being fried. The sugar was ubiquitous. The taste is very close to Swiss cheese – nutty and a bit pungent.

After that first sampling, I was mighty curious to see how this cheese was made. Huang, ever-helpful, made an appointment for us to visit a family who makes it every morning (in the absence of Yellow Pages, he simply wandered around a village asking everyone he met if they knew someone who made cheese, and eventually found one!)

Click here to meet these cheese-maker!

Next: Making Cheese


Dali chapters: Intro Shopping Batik Tacky Tea Bai Dinner Rice Paddy Food Cheese Carving Village

Yunnan chapter shortcuts: Intro Dali Lijiang Tiger Leaping Gorge Zhongdian

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