Cheese in Asia: A Guide to the Most Popular Varieties in Japan, Korea, and Beyond

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Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about all the cheese I’ve had to eat to write this article. But it’s worth it because I’m finally ready to share my findings on the use of cheese in Asia.

Cheese is a dairy product made from milk. It’s popular in many countries around the world, but it’s especially popular in Asia. In fact, it’s so popular that it’s used in a variety of different dishes. It’s also used in cooking as a way to add flavor and texture.

In this article, I’ll take you through the use of cheese in Asia and how it’s used in different dishes.

Cheese in Asia

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The Many Varieties of Cheese in Asian Cuisine

When it comes to cheese in Asia, there are a lot of traditional cheeses that have been used for centuries. These cheeses are typically made from milk that is associated with the cultures of the countries where they are commonly eaten. For example, in India, paneer is a staple in many dishes, while in China, yak cheese is a popular choice. Some of the most common traditional cheeses in Asia include:

  • Paneer
  • Yak cheese
  • Ru (Chinese cheese)
  • Cream cheese
  • Mozzarella

The Popular Use of Cheese in Dishes

While cheese may not be as prevalent in Asian cuisine as it is in European or American cuisine, it is still used in a variety of dishes. Here are some of the most popular uses of cheese in Asian cuisine:

  • Grilled cheese sandwiches: In parts of Asia, grilled cheese sandwiches are a popular street food.
  • Stir-fry dishes: Cheese can be added to stir-fry dishes to give them a creamy texture and extra flavor.
  • Sweet cheese dishes: In some countries, cheese is used in sweet dishes, such as cheesecake or sweet cheese dumplings.
  • Cheese sauce: Cheese sauce is a common way to incorporate cheese into Asian dishes, particularly in Japanese cuisine where it is often used as a dipping sauce for vegetables or meat.

The Different Types of Cheese Used

While traditional cheeses are still commonly eaten in Asia, there has been a surge in the popularity of different types of cheese in recent years. Here are some of the different types of cheese that are now being used in Asian cuisine:

  • Hard cheeses: Hard cheeses like cheddar or parmesan are now being used in Asian dishes, particularly in fusion cuisine.
  • Soft cheeses: Soft cheeses like brie or camembert are also being used in Asian dishes, particularly in dishes that incorporate vegetables.
  • Firm cheeses: Firm cheeses like feta or halloumi are commonly used in salads or grilled dishes.
  • Wet cheeses: Wet cheeses like ricotta or cottage cheese are used in dishes that require a wetter texture.
  • Tart cheeses: Tart cheeses like goat cheese or blue cheese are used to add a slight tang to dishes.

The Storage and Content of Cheese

Because of the different types of cheese used in Asian cuisine, storage and content can vary. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Lactose content: Some traditional cheeses, like paneer, have a low lactose content, making them a good choice for people who are lactose intolerant.
  • Fat content: Some cheeses, like cream cheese, have a high fat content, while others, like feta, have a lower fat content.
  • Storage: Traditional cheeses are typically stored in a dry, cool place, while European cheeses are typically stored in a cooler environment.

Overall, cheese in Asian cuisine is a bit different than what you might find in European or American cuisine, but it is still a staple in many dishes. Whether you’re trying traditional cheeses or experimenting with new types, there are plenty of ways to incorporate cheese into your Asian dishes.

Why Cheese Is Not a Staple in Asian Cuisine

When it comes to Asian cuisine, cheese is not a common ingredient. In fact, it’s rare to find cheese in Asian dishes. The biggest reason for this is that cheese is not a staple food in Asian countries. Unlike in Western countries, where cheese is a main product, people in Asia don’t eat cheese as much.

The Association of Cheese with White Meat

Another reason why cheese is not commonly used in Asian dishes is that it’s often associated with white meat. In Asian countries, meat is usually eaten with rice, and cheese doesn’t mix well with rice. Moreover, the fat content of cheese is too high for delicate Asian dishes.

The Delicate Cooking and Lack of Variety

Asian cooking is delicate, and chefs need to handle ingredients with care. Cheese, on the other hand, is not easy to handle. It’s a good ingredient for making pizza or pasta, but it’s not a typical ingredient in Asian cuisine. Additionally, there is a lack of variety of cheese available in Asian countries.

The Use of Soy as a Cheese Version

Instead of cheese, Asian cuisine uses soy as a substitute. Soy is a unique product produced in Asia, and it’s a popular choice for cooking. Soy can be used to make a variety of dishes, including tofu, soy sauce, and soy milk. Soy is also a good source of protein and is a healthier option than cheese.

The Hot and Fresh Vegetable Mix

Asian dishes usually contain a mix of hot and fresh vegetables, and cheese doesn’t usually fit into this mix. Cheese is a firm ingredient that doesn’t add much to the flavor of vegetables. Moreover, Asian cuisine uses a lot of chopped vegetables, and cheese doesn’t usually mix well with chopped vegetables.

The Highest Quality Ingredients

Asian cuisine is known for using the highest quality ingredients. Chefs pick the best quality ingredients for their dishes, and cheese is not usually one of them. Cheese is not a common ingredient in Asian cuisine, and chefs usually don’t know how to use it properly.

The Final Verdict

Cheese in China: A Surprising Mix of Traditional and Western Flavors

When it comes to cheese consumption, China is not the first country that comes to mind. However, the presence of cheese in the country is slowly but surely rising. According to a report by Euromonitor International, the cheese market in China is worth $1.4 billion and is expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2023.

The Difficulty of Finding Cheese in China

While cheese is becoming more popular in China, it can still be hard to find in some parts of the country. Cheese is not a regular part of the Chinese diet, and many stores do not carry a wide range of cheese products. However, there are some stores located in big cities that specialize in selling cheese products.

Cheese in Japan: A Traditional Cuisine Meets Western Influence

When it comes to cheese consumption, Japan is not as well-known as other countries in the world. Traditionally, cheese has not been a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. However, with the rising influence of Western culture, cheese has become more popular in recent years.

Commonly Eaten Cheese in Japan

While cheese is not seen as a staple food in Japan, it is occasionally paired with other dishes. Some of the most common types of cheese consumed in Japan include:

  • Camembert
  • Gouda
  • Cheddar
  • Mozzarella

Ways Cheese is Eaten in Japan

Cheese is not typically eaten on its own in Japan, but rather paired with other foods. Here are some ways cheese is commonly consumed in Japan:

  • As a topping for ramen or other noodle dishes
  • In stews and hot pots
  • Paired with wine or sake

Traditional Japanese Dishes with Cheese

While cheese is not traditionally used in Japanese cuisine, there are some dishes that incorporate cheese in unique ways. Some examples include:

  • Cheese-filled takoyaki (octopus balls)
  • Pizza topped with seafood and mayonnaise (a popular Japanese-style pizza)
  • Cheese-filled croquettes

Overall, while cheese may not be a common ingredient in traditional Japanese cuisine, it is becoming more popular as Western influence continues to rise.

Cheese in Korea: A Love-Hate Relationship

Cheese is not a traditional ingredient in Korean cuisine, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years. The first cheese factory in Korea was established in 1958, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that cheese started to gain popularity. Today, cheese is a common ingredient in Korean dishes, especially in fusion cuisine.

Cheese in the Philippines: A Melting Pot of Flavors

When it comes to cheese, the Philippines may not be the first country that comes to mind. However, Filipinos have a deep love for queso, the Spanish word for cheese. Queso is a staple in many Filipino households and is often used in traditional dishes like ensaymada, a sweet bread topped with butter and grated cheese.

The Introduction of American and Cheddar Cheese

American and cheddar cheese were introduced to the Philippines during the American colonization period. These types of cheese quickly became popular among Filipinos and are now widely available in supermarkets and grocery stores.

The Rise of Artisan Cheesemakers

In recent years, there has been a rise in artisan cheesemakers in the Philippines. These cheesemakers use premium ingredients and traditional techniques to create unique and flavorful cheeses. Some notable artisan cheesemakers in the Philippines include:

  • Queso de Bola- a salty, Dutch-style cheese that is often served during the Christmas season
  • Corn Bits- a cheese made with real corn kernels and is perfect for snacking
  • Ube Cheese- a cheese made with purple yam, a popular Filipino ingredient

Imported Cheeses for the Affluent Residents

Imported cheeses are also available in the Philippines, but they are often expensive and can only be afforded by affluent residents. Some popular imported cheeses in the Philippines include:

  • Rogue Creamery- a cheese company from Oregon, USA that produces award-winning blue cheese
  • Cowgirl Creamery- a cheese company from California, USA that produces artisanal cheeses
  • Humphry Slocombe- an ice cream company from California, USA that produces a cheese-flavored ice cream using Laura Chenel goat cheese

The Perfect Pairing: Cheese and Wine

The Philippines may not be known for its wine, but there are some local wineries that produce high-quality wines. Some notable wineries in the Philippines include Domaine Carneros and Treaty Vineyards. Filipinos are slowly discovering the joys of pairing cheese with wine, and it is becoming a popular trend among wine enthusiasts.

The Future of Cheese in the Philippines

Cheese may not be a traditional Filipino ingredient, but it has become a precious commodity that is enjoyed by many. With the rise of artisan cheesemakers and the introduction of new flavors, the future of cheese in the Philippines is looking bright. Who knows, maybe one day the Philippines will be known for its unique and flavorful cheeses.


So, that’s how you can use cheese in Asian cuisine. It’s a delicious way to add some extra flavor to your dishes. You can use it in both soft and hard cheeses, and the cheeses themselves come from a wide range of countries. So, go ahead and give it a try!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.