Cantonese Cheese: A Unique Chinese Cheese You Need to Try

Welcome to the first of our multi-part series where we’ll explore this relatively unknown culinary gem – Daliang Cheese (大良牛乳), also known as Gold Medal Milk Curd (金榜牛乳). This Cantonese cheese originates from the Daliang subdistrict of Shunde, Foshan and embodies centuries-old culinary techniques, making it a unique aspect of the regional food culture. Read on to get a taste of human experience – of life’s challenges and triumphs, continuity and change, loss and hope. Daliang dairy products are the perfect example of a culinary treasure for the ages.

Made By Hand, Crafted By Heart: Inside the Ancient Art of China’s Sought-After Daliang Cheese

Cantonese Cheese from Gold Medal Village (金榜村) in Shunde, China is a culinary gem that embodies centuries of tradition and artisanal craft. Originating from a small village in the Shunde district, this cheese has gained fame as the “Cheese of the East” (东方芝士) for its unique flavor and texture.

Shunde has a rich culinary heritage, but Daliang Village is home to a dairy tradition little known outside the region. For centuries, the village has been producing Daliang Milk, which is used to make an artisanal cheese from buffalo milk. The fertile land and clean water provide ideal conditions for raising buffalo, whose milk forms the base of Daliang Milk.

The production of Daliang Cheese is a meticulous process. The buffalo milk is first simmered, then cooled and filtered before being left to separate naturally into curds and whey. The curds are then collected and moulded into soft shapes. An aging and ripening period gives Daliang Milk its characteristic subtle flavor and creamy texture. This delicate process marries culinary tradition with artisanal skill.

Through the decades, Daliang Milk has cemented its status as a cultural icon. In the 1970s and 80s, demand surged, turning Gold Medal Village into a dairy powerhouse. Every household participated in production as hundreds of buffaloes were raised to meet demand. Daliang Milk became famous beyond the village, reaching cities like Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Despite technological progress, Daliang Milk is still made using traditional methods by skilled workers who understand the nuances that shape its unique quality.

Though modernity has transformed the village, Daliang Milk remains a cherished delicacy and marker of cultural heritage. Production now uses some mechanization, and buffalo herds have dwindled, but Daliang Milk is still a source of pride. This enduring quality, like the resilient buffalo of old, has allowed Daliang Milk to stand the test of time.

Through this series, we invite you to uncover the story behind this culinary gem. Join us as we explore its meticulous craftsmanship and meet the people who have dedicated their lives to creating Daliang Milk. Experience the depth of Cantonese culinary culture, a delicate harmony of tradition, innovation, and community that lives on in every jar of Daliang Cheese.

Whey to Go: The Geography of Gold Medal Village

Gold Medal Village (金榜村) is located in Daliang (大良), a subdistrict of Shunde in Guangdong province. Its fertile land and clean water provide ideal conditions for agricultural production, especially raising buffalo. Rivers flow through the village, giving it a source of fresh water essential for making Daliang Milk. The river plain and uplands also provide grasslands for grazing buffalo. These natural advantages, combined with generations of dairy farming knowledge, allowed Daliang Milk to develop and thrive.

The village landscape was once dotted with rice paddies, fishing ponds and pastures where buffalo roamed. Today, Gold Medal Village retains a rustic charm even as modernity encroaches. Many historical buildings and landmarks remain, offering glimpses into life centuries ago. At its heart, the village spirit endures in the daily rituals of life – morning exercises in public squares, friends gathering over cups of tea or rounds of mahjong.

The village’s dairy legacy is also kept alive daily. Delivery trucks come and go from the dairy factory, transporting freshly made Daliang Milk to markets and customers. Visitors tour exhibition halls displaying the history of Daliang Milk and its production. Restaurants proudly feature classic village dishes made from buffalo milk, meat and produce. At traditional dried goods stores, jars of Daliang Milk sit alongside delicacies like steamed buffalo milk and ginger puddings.

The once ubiquitous buffalo no longer roam, replaced by a few symbolic statues, but the dairy culture built around them lives on. Through its geographic and cultural advantages, Gold Medal Village created the conditions for an artisanal craft that has stood the test of time. Every element of village life, past and present, is in some way tied to the Daliang Milk that brought it fame. This intertwining of place and identity gives each jar of Daliang Milk a flavor of history.

Udderly Delicious: How Daliang Milk is Made

Daliang Milk Cheese is an artisanal product made through a time-honored process that balances artistry and science. At its heart is fresh buffalo milk, full of proteins and fats that give the milk curd its characteristic richness. But it is the skill and care of curd makers that transform the milk into cheese.

The first step is preparing the buffalo milk. Milk is collected daily, then heated in sandpots to 40-50°C to kill any impurities while imparting a distinctive cooked flavor. Simultaneously, white vinegar is heated to the same temperature.

Curd making requires precision and dexterity. Curd makers carefully monitor the milk and vinegar, combining them at the precise moment to coagulate the milk into soft curd lumps. The curds are then pressed into a silky and plump consistency in wooden molds.

The curds are soaked in brine for 3 to 4 hours until hardened. Aging and ripening then transform the curds into Daliang Milk sheets. Throughout, curd makers rely on their senses and experience to ensure optimal texture, moisture, and aroma.

Today, some mechanization and equipment assist in production, but Daliang Milk is still predominantly handmade using traditional methods. Curd makers gain knowledge through long apprenticeships, acquiring skills that can only come from years of practice. Their intuition and mastery shape Daliang Milk into a product of the finest quality.

Daliang Milk is a story of masterful craftspersonship enduring for generations. Through the hands of skilled curd makers, fresh buffalo milk is elevated into an extraordinary milk curd and metaphor for tradition. Each sheet embodies the history, culture, and terroir of Gold Medal Village. At its heart, a community’s dedication to an age-old craft symbolizes its identity.

A Curd Above the Rest: What Makes Daliang Milk Special

Beyond its culinary qualities, Daliang Milk is a cultural symbol of Gold Medal Village. This artisanal cheese embodies the village’s history, values and spirit. For centuries, Daliang Milk was a source of livelihood and shaped village life, becoming deeply intertwined with its identity.

In the early days of the village, raising buffalo and making Daliang Milk into cheese were a way of life. Each household owned buffalo and participated in dairy production, from milking and grazing to making and selling cheese. This collective endeavor built community and forged a shared experience of tilling the land and harnessing nature’s bounty.

As demand grew in the 1970s and 80s, Daliang Milk became a source of prosperity. But it also nearly overwhelmed the village, as hundreds more buffalo were raised and production scaled up to meet demand. Despite the pressures of growth, the village never sacrificed quality or abandoned traditional methods. Their dedication to craftspersonship, even when expediency may have dictated otherwise, demonstrated a commitment to core values over material gains.

Today, Daliang Milk is a point of pride for villagers and symbol of their heritage. It is the subject of the village’s cultural museum, featured in annual festivals, and used in dishes served at restaurants. The village is even nicknamed “Cheese Village” in recognition of this culinary legacy.

Yet this pride comes with awareness of a way of life now gone, as buffalo herding faded and generational knowledge dwindles. The village must work to preserve its traditions as the wider world encroaches, through efforts like breeding more buffalo, training new cheesemakers and promoting Daliang Milk globally. By sharing their culinary heritage, the village hopes to keep community spirit alive.

Daliang Milk is thus both a reminder of a shared past and an inspiration for securing a cultural future. It represents continuity – of tradition, place and identity – even as the forces of change sweep through Gold Medal Village. This small Cantonese cheese is a metaphor for the resilience of community in embracing progress while staying rooted to the values and spirit of the past. It gives tangible form to the intangible – the feelings of nostalgia, belonging and interconnection between people and place.

The Cream of the Crop: Why Daliang Milk Rose to Fame.

Daliang Milk is a culinary treasure that gives insight into the depth of Cantonese food culture. But it is equally a story of place, community and human endeavor. Gold Medal Village built a thriving dairy industry against geographical constraints and economic difficulties. Through generations of dedication, villagers established an artisanal craft and cuisine that became a source of prosperity and cultural pride.

Today, Daliang Milk reminds us of the village’s agricultural roots, embodied in the now rare buffalo. It recalls a way of life centered around cultivating the land, harnessing nature’s gifts, and transforming raw ingredients into delicious, culturally-significant foods through skill and knowledge accumulated over time.

Most of all, Daliang Milk is a metaphor for the resilience of tradition. It has survived modernization, industrialization and globalization, retaining characteristics shaped by the village and its terroir. The continued production of Daliang Milk demonstrates an unwavering commitment to safeguarding culinary heritage and community identity for future generations.

Though the world continues to change at a dizzying pace, some things endure – like the patience, care and craft required to make Daliang Milk. This small cheese contains layers of meaning that speak of history and human experience. It gives us a glimpse into a rural way of life fast disappearing in China, and a sense of connection to a place we may never visit through flavors that evoke nostalgia for a past we never knew.

The story of Daliang Milk is one of hope – that tradition can stand up to the test of progress, and culture remains inseparable from community. By sharing this little-known tale of an uncharted culinary gem, we aim to celebrate what people can achieve when they come together to protect the heritage that sustains them. Herein lies a quiet but indomitable strength, like the resilient buffalo and enduring quality of Daliang Milk, the cheese from a village called Gold Medal.

The rise of Gold Medal Village to a Cantonese dairy powerhouse is a tale that extends beyond the bounds of culinary artistry. It’s a testament to a community’s resilience, innovation, and unwavering dedication to maintaining a cherished tradition. As we conclude this part of our series, we invite you to join us in the next article where we explore the intricate process of making the famed cheese. If this piques your interest and you wish to experience the depth of Chinese culinary culture firsthand, reach out to us for personalized travel itineraries and guides at Eat Rice LA.

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