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Dec 1, 2004 10:52 AM

Edam Cheese in Filipino Markets, what's the connection?

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Now that the holiday season is upon us again, I've noticed this for the last few seasons and don't quite understand it. The Filipino markets that I've been to are all fully stocked with balls of Edam cheese, that Dutch semi-soft, wax-covered cheese, wrapped in festive red celophane. Sure, it looks appropriate for the holidays, and there's an ease about it as a gift-giving food item, but is that it? Just curious as to how this tradition began. Anyone have a clue?

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  1. A little Googling and:

    The traditional Filipino Christmas feast includes "queso de bola" or a ball of edam cheese,

    3 Replies
    1. re: 2chez mike

      This is reminding me of something I read a couple of years ago about a tradition either in the Caribbean or northern South America about hollowing out the Edam cheeses and stuffing and baking them. I think the story alluded to the large cheeses serving as part of the balast on trading ships. I don't rmemeber the whole story. Maybe someone else out there remmebers? Or, knows?

      1. re: 2chez mike

        Yeah, I kinda got that part. I'm just wondering where/when it began. And why Edam? Why not Gouda or some other cheese?

        1. re: Eric Eto

          This topic piqued my interest, so did a quick google using "history edam Philippines" and found the linked account. Didn't do further research to verify accuracy, but sounds plausible.

          Writer suggests that American teachers, who became known as the Thomasites, brought Edam (among other foods) to the Philippines around 1901. It is listed under the category of "dessert."

          Will have to ask my Filipino friends about this...


      2. Hi,

        I just got off the phone with my Filipino friend. She immediately explained the Edam cheese is used for making ensaimada, which is a brioche type bread. I link to a recipe for your edification.

        According to my friend, the cheese is in the interior of the roll as well as when its finished baking, they apply melted butter then sprinkle sugar and cheese on top.

        She has been dreaming of making these, so this weekend I will make the dough and she will shape it. If I learn something more, I will advise.



        1. They use edam down in the Caribbean too. I just always figured that because it is hard and has its wax coat which aided in its preservation that edam was taken out to these tropical countries by Dutch and other traders, and got established there.

          1. Hi, Eric!

            I'm Filipino, and grew up with the stuff. The version I heard was that the Spanish used to ship the cheese in. The wax coating and high salt content helped preserve it during the long journey and once it arrived in the tropics. The edam we use in the Philippines is much harder, sharper, and saltier than the edam sold here. It is used mostly for grating and nibbling. Grated, it is used to flavor and enrich everything from salads to meat dishes and sauces--much the same way Italians use parmesan.

            As Cathy discovered, enseimada is one principal--and probably my favorite use--for this cheese. The recipe sounds pretty good, though my own recipe calls for proportionately more butter and 3 risings. Once you have had a good enseimada, its top buttered and sprinkled with grated queso de bola (edam) and sugar, you will forever see brioche as its poor relation.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Pia

              Thank you for the explanation. I have my share of Filipino feasts as I'm part of an extended Filipino family through a sibling's spouse, and am learning a lot about the culture and cuisine. I dig on those enseimadas too. However, now you've exposed another historical quandry for me. Why would the Spanish bring over a Dutch cheese, instead of any of the aged spanish cheeses like manchego? It seems more plausible that the Thomasite teachers probably brought the cheese over later, as another poster suggests.

              Also, if the edam cheese in the Philippines is harder and sharper as you suggest, perhaps I should bring over some aged gouda, mimolette, or manchego to my new Filipino family for them to enjoy. As a former cheese seller, edam cheese is toward the bottom of the list of cheeses that I would choose to buy, as the majority of what's available in the market is a mass-produced, flavorless cheese. I guess I didn't realize that Filipinos were such a cheese eating people, but learning from these posts, I feel like I can slowly introduce some new cheeses. Thanks again for sharing the knowledge.

              1. re: Eric Eto

                >Why would the Spanish bring over a Dutch cheese, instead of any of the aged spanish cheeses like manchego?

                OK, this is a longshot explanation, but the Spanish did claim the Netherlands for centuries, and Edam cheese apparently had a sort of tangential role in the Dutch liberation in the 16th century. Consider this entry from The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition(2001):

                "Alkmaar (älk´mär) (KEY) , city (1994 pop. 92,962), North Holland prov., NW Netherlands. It is an important market town with varied industries. Alkmaar also attracts tourists, especially because of the famous Edam-cheese market, held weekly in front of the 16th-century weighhouse. Alkmaar was chartered in 1254. Its successful defense (1573) against Spanish troops was a turning point in the revolt of the Netherlands."

                Edam worth going to war for? I dunno, I think I'd be more likely to fight for smoked gouda, but who knows?

                1. re: PayOrPlay

                  Yes, the Dutch had to fight for their independence from the Spanish. It has to do with the Hapsburgs coming to the Spanish throne; they had just acquired Burgundy through marriage--Burgundy in the context of the 1400s implied the low countries (Benelux). That's how that connection came about. Add to that Charles V who was the ruler (at least nominally) of places as disparate as Lima, Mexico City, Madrid, Milan, Vienna, Hamburg, and Amsterdam.

              2. re: Pia


                Would you be so kind to share your recipe either here on the board or via e-mail. My friend left the Philippines without having this recipe from her Grandmother. Other relatives have it but won't share!

                Any help is very much appreciated.



                I too have always been curious about this. The link above explains it. Why I was curious is because I wanted to see if there was an Edam sold in most cheese stores that would compare, but there isn't because these are made in the Netherlands specifically for the Filipino palate. Read on, it'll tell you why.