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No dairy products in Asia?

mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 01:09 PM

The thread about (not) putting cheese on certain Italian dishes got me thinking. I can't think of any Asian dishes that use any dairy products. Do they use butter? Cheese? Milk? I love Asian food just the way it is but, I'm just curious.

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  1. ipsedixit RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 01:14 PM

    You mean now? Or traditionally?

    There have always been custards and puddings (e.g. Egg Tarts). But traditionally, milk (and related dairy products) have been primarily a Western affectation.

    But nowadays, there is as much cheese, milk and other dairy products in the entire continent of Asia as there is here in the Western Hemisphere (e..g boba milk teas, ice cream, etc.).

    34 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      mucho gordo RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2012 01:23 PM

      Thanks, ipse. I wasn't aware of that. I can only go by what I've seen and eaten of Chinese, Thai and Phillipino foods. I don't think Japanese cooking uses any and I'm not sure about Vietnamese. I don't just order typical American style dishes. None have used any dairy products.

      1. re: mucho gordo
        ipsedixit RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 01:33 PM

        It is certainly limited in traditional Asian (that's a very VERY broad term by the way) cuisines, unless you count things like soybean milk (Chinese) or coconut milk (SE Asia like Thai, Malay) as "dairy".

        But nowadays, it's much pretty a global smorgasbord of culinary orgies and in-breeding, n'est–ce pas?

        1. re: ipsedixit
          mucho gordo RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2012 01:37 PM

          Oui, mais certainment, m'sieur and I don't consider soy/coconut milk to be dairy

          1. re: mucho gordo
            ipsedixit RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 01:39 PM

            You should read this previous discussion by Silverjay which gives a nice historical layout of the milk in Japanese cuisine, the follow-up posts by KK are also very helpful.


            1. re: mucho gordo
              huiray RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 02:08 PM

              Do you consider eggs to be dairy? As ipse has mentioned, eggs have been used in Chinese cooking for a very long time.

              What *is* your definition of "dairy products"?

              1. re: huiray
                mucho gordo RE: huiray Sep 8, 2012 02:27 PM

                Actually, I haven't considered eggs to be dairy although I know some do.

                1. re: huiray
                  hotoynoodle RE: huiray Sep 15, 2012 04:21 PM

                  dairy comes out of a 4-legged ruminant. it's not the same as the section of the supermarket.

              2. re: ipsedixit
                DeppityDawg RE: ipsedixit Sep 8, 2012 03:17 PM

                In addition to ipsedixit's link, see the following existing threads covering the same ground:

                Got no milk? Why don't Far East Asian cultures use the stuff?

                Cheese and Asian food

                Cheese in Chinese Cuisine

                very curious about where the cheese ends in asia

              3. re: mucho gordo
                chartreauxx RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 02:56 PM

                definitely not a historical norm, but modern japanese cooking uses a fair amount of dairy. yogurt, drinking yogurt, milk, flavored milk, milk tea, ice cream, frozen yogurt, pizza, cream sauces, cream cheese, mild cheeses, cheese-filled breads, puddings, custards, whipped toppings, BUTTER! examples of dairy in japanese diet/cuisine:

                tarako or mentaiko cream spaghetti
                (royal) milk tea
                rare cheesecake
                mochi-cheese okonomiyaki
                nori-cheese-stuffed tebasa yakitori
                butter ramen
                cream taiyaki
                milk in kyuushoku (school lunch)
                cream chowder
                gratin pasta
                strawberry/banana/peach/melon/etc au lait
                buttered corn
                kimchi-cheese chahan
                cream chowders
                castella cake
                cheese-chicken-mayo onigiri
                pizza man
                cheese curry/cheese curry katsu
                pizza toast
                soft cream
                starbucks drinks
                tuna-cheese crepes

                i always chuckle at the "lactose intolerance in asia" thing because i know every schoolchild in japan drinks at least one serving of milk daily from first grade through ninth grade. minimum. not to mention the prevalence of yogurt, cheese, cream cheese, cream, butter, and other milk products in japan. there's also the rising popularity of more "aggressive" cheeses as wine also rises in popularity. maybe i'm crazy, but anecdotal as well as more formal data supports that dairy, albeit often in smaller quantities per serving, is a common and rising element in the modern japanese diet.

                1. re: chartreauxx
                  butterfly RE: chartreauxx Sep 8, 2012 04:28 PM

                  Lactose intolerance in small children is rarer, since there is a basic evolutionary need for all humans to digest milk when young. The ability to produce lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, decreases after childhood. I wasn't seriously lactose intolerant until my mid-twenties, as seemed to be the case with everyone in my family (Ashkenazi Jews). That doesn't stop some of them from hitting the cream cheese and sour cream (but I can assure you, they aren't so fun to be around after they do).


                  1. re: butterfly
                    chartreauxx RE: butterfly Sep 8, 2012 04:38 PM

                    the studies i've seen indicate that continued consumption of dairy at certain levels actually impacts lactase production throughout life in most people, but i could be wrong...

                    that said, i'm also ashkenazi (father's side, i know i know, it doesn't "really" count then right? ;-) )! maybe we're distantly related! lol

                    1. re: butterfly
                      PAO RE: butterfly Sep 21, 2012 12:14 PM

                      Yes, I ate tons of dairy until I turned 60. Now I'm somewhat dairy intolerant (I'm an Asian American). Some of my relatives also became dairy intolerant in their 50's and 60's. Keep in mind that one can be dairy intolerant but not lactose intolerant. Some people lose the ability to digest the protein in dairy products.

                      1. re: butterfly
                        MacGuffin RE: butterfly Sep 24, 2012 09:18 AM

                        My mom became quite severely lactose-intolerant in her early 50's and out of the blue, too. I love dairy but realize it's ideally suited to nurturing the young of the species that produces it.

                      2. re: chartreauxx
                        Chowrin RE: chartreauxx Oct 16, 2012 05:55 PM

                        the japanese are lactose intolerant, in general. that doesn't mean you can't drink milk, it just gives indigestion if you have too much.

                        1. re: Chowrin
                          Tripeler RE: Chowrin Oct 16, 2012 07:53 PM

                          In my local supermarket here in Tokyo there are tons of dairy products, ranging from all kinds of milk and yogurt to many kinds of cheese, but mostly the cheese is not real, though all of the imported cheese is. I find it hard to believe that most Japanese are lactose intolerant. I think that in the past 40 years they have largely lost this trait.

                          1. re: Tripeler
                            TeRReT RE: Tripeler Oct 16, 2012 08:17 PM

                            Agreed, I know in the past not as much dairy was eaten, and I know my family here does have pretty easy to upset stomachs, but they seem to be able to stomach some dairy. While the crap cheese is eaten by them sometimes, yogurt seems to have gotten very popular, and everyone seems to have at least 1 a day with no trouble. And whenever I go to the bar, everyone is drinking kawaii pink and green cream based drinks so I think the younger generations are getting over any past intolerance. They love their cream pastas too, and their ebi gratins.

                            1. re: Tripeler
                              huiray RE: Tripeler Oct 17, 2012 01:48 AM

                              Primary lactose intolerance is genetically encoded on chromosome 2 in the lactase persistence allele. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10... If adult Japanese have truly gained lactase persistence through genetic evolution within 40 years that would be remarkable.

                              1. re: huiray
                                Tripeler RE: huiray Oct 17, 2012 03:27 AM

                                Yes, that may be so, but for a so-called "lactose intolerant" population, there is certainly a remarkable amount of milk consumed in Japan.

                                1. re: Tripeler
                                  MacGuffin RE: Tripeler Oct 17, 2012 04:06 AM

                                  When did something's not being good for someone stop them from consuming it, especially if it tastes good and is considered "hip," to boot? And have to agree with the 40 years' genetic evolution. I suspect it would not only be remarkable but unique. I would also add that there's a lot of lactose intolerance among Jews (note butterfly's previous posts) but it hasn't kept Israel from having a thriving dairy industry or, on a somewhat more ancient level, the book of Leviticus from enjoining people not to mix milk from permitted animals with meat.

                                  FWIW, I've read anecdotes to the effect that the lactose-intolerant sometimes have an easier time with raw milk.

                                  1. re: Tripeler
                                    Chowrin RE: Tripeler Oct 17, 2012 03:20 PM

                                    it gives bigger breasts. or so my manga say.

                                    1. re: Chowrin
                                      MacGuffin RE: Chowrin Oct 17, 2012 07:03 PM

                                      I must say, you've got some fascinating points of view from a lactic perspective: "defective Europeans," "bigger breasts..." Undoubtedly given short shrift in some mainstream scientific circles but interesting nonetheless.

                                      1. re: MacGuffin
                                        Chowrin RE: MacGuffin Oct 17, 2012 07:18 PM

                                        "defective" just means sports -- freaks if you will. naturally I haven't done any research on whether lactose-tolerance is actually a "good survival trait" or whether it's linked to one.
                                        And repeating a point of cultural reference ought not to be understood as anything remotely scientific (just bolstering your point on it being "hip")

                                        1. re: Chowrin
                                          MacGuffin RE: Chowrin Oct 17, 2012 07:36 PM

                                          I know what "defective" means. And cultural or not, "breast growth" involves biology which involves scientists and their circles. I stand by "interesting."

                                  2. re: huiray
                                    Jerome RE: huiray Oct 18, 2012 05:27 PM

                                    how long have the japanese people (not Ainu) actually been on the islands? not over 3000 years? do you know of any studies that show that there is primary lactose intolerance among a high percentage of Japanese people? is it possible that it's a recessive quality and not as widespead as all that? just some quesitons.

                                    1. re: Jerome
                                      Chowrin RE: Jerome Oct 18, 2012 05:31 PM

                                      sources linked at bottom.
                                      otherwise a quick search on pubmed.

                                      1. re: Chowrin
                                        Jerome RE: Chowrin Oct 18, 2012 07:00 PM

                                        since you've checked the sources, is it a recessive gene? it's certainly found worldwide even among populations who routinely consume cow's milk products.

                                        1. re: Jerome
                                          Chowrin RE: Jerome Oct 18, 2012 07:16 PM

                                          they're calling lactose tolerance dominant, so yeah.

                                      2. re: Jerome
                                        huiray RE: Jerome Oct 19, 2012 05:16 AM

                                        Did you read the review article (full text) I linked to?

                                        In the "Prevalence of lactose intolerance" section one reads:
                                        [Quote] "The decline in lactase expression is usually complete during childhood but the decline has also been reported to occur later in adolescence.33 The rate of loss of lactase activity also varies according to ethnicity but the physiological explanation for this difference in timing is currently unknown. Chinese and Japanese lose 80–90% of lactase activity within 3–4 years after weaning, Jews and Asians lose 60–70% over several years postweaning and in white Northern Europeans it may take up to 18–20 years for lactase activity to reach its lowest expression.5" [Unquote]
                                        For your convenience here is the citation again: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10...

                                        Yes, the allele/gene that results in lactase non-persistence is a recessive one. However, most Chinese and Japanese carry two copies of the gene.
                                        See also pg 257 of the Science Progress article cited below.

                                        Most Japanese *can* drink some milk (200 mL) without showing symptoms of intestinal distress. This is also borne out by the anecdotal observations of many who have posted on this thread. However, by the standards of measurement of lactose malabsorption (hydrogen test, etc) indicating possible lactose intolerance, Japanese adults are largely lactase non-persistent.
                                        Some citations:
                                        http://www.springerlink.com/content/w... Read the full text preview, not just the abstract at the top.
                                        http://adc.bmj.com/content/54/6/436.a... The full pdf is available (free) from that page also.

                                        There are many others which require approval or payment for full access.

                                        A larger (rambling) paper [Science Progress article] with more detail and nuances, including discussion on the possible role of microflora or probiotic bacteria in the large intestine (see pgs 255, 271-272):
                                        http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content... The full pdf (free) is available from that page.
                                        [Other papers also mention the possible role of probiotic bacteria in waylaying symptoms of intestinal distress, including possibly in the Japanese?]

                                        1. re: huiray
                                          Jerome RE: huiray Oct 20, 2012 01:32 AM

                                          thanks for the synopsis. I am perfectly fine reading your summary which meets my curiosity on the subject. And how great that others now have aaccess to this information. you seem quite well informed on the subject.

                                    2. re: Tripeler
                                      JungMann RE: Tripeler Oct 17, 2012 07:38 AM

                                      Unless Godzilla is also going to emerge from Tokyo Bay, the Japanese have not altered their genetic code in just 40 years. My fridge has several kinds of cheese, milk and yogurt, but I am still lactose intolerant. I just bear the discomfort or take a pill.

                                      1. re: JungMann
                                        MacGuffin RE: JungMann Oct 17, 2012 08:21 AM

                                        LOL--good one! (And I rest my case.)

                                      2. re: Tripeler
                                        Chowrin RE: Tripeler Oct 17, 2012 03:20 PM

                                        can i please refer you to the legend of strawberry milk (google for it!)

                                        1. re: Chowrin
                                          huiray RE: Chowrin Oct 17, 2012 10:01 PM

                                          You mean this?

                                  3. re: mucho gordo
                                    JungMann RE: mucho gordo Sep 24, 2012 11:01 AM

                                    While milk is not a large component of the traditional Filipino diet, dairy does make its ways into a number of foods, mainly snacks and dessert, especially those which are a product of the Spanish and American colonial legacy. Leche flan, cheese pimiento and ensaymada are the first things that come to mind. Kesong puti is a native cheese made from carabao milk. On the topic of cheese and seafood taboos, baked mussels with cheese are a popular appetizer. But while dairy products are represented in the Filipino canon, overall dairy consumption remains low for a variety of factors, including the lack of domestic production and the low purchasing power of the average consumer.

                                2. drongo RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 01:52 PM

                                  Asia is 61% of world's population (2011 per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_po... ) so rather too broad a categorization. Some parts of Asia use dairy regularly (e.g. India), some rarely (e.g. China). According to Joanna Waley-Cohen in "Food, the History of Taste" (p. 103) dairy fell into disfavor in China in part because of its association with the Mongols.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: drongo
                                    mucho gordo RE: drongo Sep 8, 2012 01:57 PM

                                    Now, that's interesting. Thanks, drongo

                                    1. re: drongo
                                      Lizard RE: drongo Sep 8, 2012 01:58 PM

                                      Thank you. Reading someone call dairy a "Western Affectation" kind of made me giggle given the uses of dairy (ghee?) in South Asian cooking. Central Asian cuisine has dairy too. And let's not forget that Iran and Afghanistan are part of Asia as is the Middle East (although I could understand if the proximity to N. Africa threw some folks.

                                      1. re: Lizard
                                        mucho gordo RE: Lizard Sep 8, 2012 02:06 PM

                                        Ghee Whiz! I'd forgotten about that.

                                      2. re: drongo
                                        huiray RE: drongo Sep 8, 2012 02:04 PM

                                        Adult East Asian populations (Han Chinese, Japanese, etc) also continue to be very largely genetically lactose intolerant to this day. It wasn't just that "...dairy fell into disfavor in China in part because of its association with the Mongols...". Much of the modern-day eating of cheeses, ice cream, etc in Japan/China etc etc does correlate with adoption of Western diets and/or affectations as ipse describes it. Most people *can* take some dairy before they get sick or feel intestinal distress - it doesn't mean that they die immediately from having some dairy. But yes, it definitely is not a part of traditional Chinese cuisine &etc.

                                        @ mucho gordo: As drongo and Lizard also point out, dairy is consumed in South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia (and some would consider Tibet, e.g., as part of this region), North Asia.

                                        1. re: huiray
                                          drongo RE: huiray Sep 8, 2012 02:20 PM

                                          Good point, huiray... it leads to a chicken-and-egg question:
                                          Did people become lactose-intolerant because they abandoned dairy, or did they abandon dairy because they became lactose-intolerant?
                                          Or we could put the question the other way:
                                          Did people remain lactose-tolerant because they kept eating dairy, or did they keep eating dairy because they remained lactose-tolerant?

                                          1. re: drongo
                                            Ruth Lafler RE: drongo Sep 8, 2012 04:13 PM

                                            Given the geographic distribution of lactose tolerance (Uncommon among northern Europeans, common among Africans as well as East Asians), I'm inclined to think that being lactose *tolerant* is the adaptation to an environment that was better-suited to dairying than to some other forms of agriculture.

                                            It should be noted that aged cheeses are very low in lactose and only people who are severely lactose intolerant would be affected by it, so its unlikely that a culture where cheese consumption was well-established would abandon it on the basis of lactose intolerance. Cultured products like yogurt are also tolerated better by people who are only mildly lactose intolerant and butter/ghee has virtually no lactose, so again, lactose intolerance would not be a factor.

                                            1. re: drongo
                                              butterfly RE: drongo Sep 8, 2012 04:33 PM

                                              Everything I have read about this suggests that natural selection in Europe favored those who had a genetic mutation that enabled them to tolerate milk into adulthood. Here's one article that discusses this:


                                              And a fascinating article about milk drinking in Europe that is peripherally related to the subject:


                                              1. re: butterfly
                                                jumpingmonk RE: butterfly Sep 8, 2012 09:07 PM

                                                I have also heard that one of the reason lactose tolerance became so prevalent in Northern Europe/scandanavia was that it gave a particualr advantage there. In areas where the growing season is short, and therefore certain foods (especially leavy green vegetables) were in short supply for much of the year; the ability to disgest milk gave additional acess to critical vitamins.

                                                1. re: jumpingmonk
                                                  Chowrin RE: jumpingmonk Oct 16, 2012 05:57 PM

                                                  it's more the lack of yogurts and other lactose-free milks, but yeah.

                                              2. re: drongo
                                                Chowrin RE: drongo Oct 16, 2012 05:56 PM

                                                What an odd question.
                                                it's the europeans that are defective, and because they had to drink milk to survive.

                                          2. k
                                            keepquiet RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 02:09 PM

                                            Fried milk - a sweet dim sum dish
                                            Lots of Indian desserts use milk products like rasgulla, gulab jamun etc.
                                            In Singapore, we have fish soup at hawker centres that hawkers sometimes add condense milk, it's optional and up to patrons liking

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: keepquiet
                                              keepquiet RE: keepquiet Sep 8, 2012 06:24 PM

                                              Wanted to add,aside fr thier sweets, u can find dairy In Indian savory dishes as well. Paneer , a indian cottage cheese-like thing, is commonly used . Example dishes are Palak paneer and saag paneer. Yogurt n cream are also used for thickening for certain type of curries.

                                              Japanese cheesecake uses dairy. Unlike the rich and creamy American cheesecake, it s a lot lighter and not so sweet. Think of it as a dense soufflé or angel cakes, eggs need to be separated
                                              and the whites peaked. It also has no crust. It's one of my favourite sweet treats.

                                            2. drongo RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 02:36 PM

                                              Since I'm a wiseass, let me say that Krab Rangoon contains dairy and that's a genuine traditional Chinese dish, right?


                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: drongo
                                                huiray RE: drongo Sep 8, 2012 02:39 PM


                                                1. re: drongo
                                                  huiray RE: drongo Sep 8, 2012 02:41 PM

                                                  Actually, on second thought, it *would* be considered as a "traditional" Chinese dish by many, MANY folks in the general USAmerican populace...

                                                  I sometimes have to pick my eyebrows up off the floor after reading reviews of some "Chinese" restaurant (note double quotation marks) on some forum like Yelp where the diner raved about how wonderful the Krab Rangoons were and how they showed the "authenticity" of the place.

                                                  1. re: drongo
                                                    mucho gordo RE: drongo Sep 8, 2012 02:51 PM

                                                    You're being fecetious, right?

                                                    1. re: mucho gordo
                                                      drongo RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 03:41 PM

                                                      Yes, mucho gordo......... I know bugger-all about "genuine traditional Chinese" cuisine except that Krab Rangoon is not part of it, lol.

                                                  2. chartreauxx RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 03:01 PM

                                                    what about tibetan diet? yak butter tea, anyone? or mongolian diet? where dairy is one of its MAJOR elements. or russian (northern asia), using butter or sour cream? yogurt and kefir also appear in lots of central/north asian cuisines... and especially, non-cow dairy, like sheep or goat, isn't unusual in much of asia...

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: chartreauxx
                                                      jumpingmonk RE: chartreauxx Sep 8, 2012 04:10 PM

                                                      Actually, there ARE some tradtional Chinese dishes that include dairy, there just rather rare. The Yunnanese make goat cheese, and have for centuries. One of the fancier Chiense resturaunts in NYC I know makes a dish called "Stir fried fresh milk with crab". It's sort of like a cross between scrambled eggs and an omelette (it's actually very pleasant to pick up as takeway, put in the fridge, and have for breakfast the following day) And as far as I can tell, (from a little web reaseach, it actually is a legitamate Cantonese dish. I used to have a cookbook called "The Chinese Gourmet" which incuded a few milk containing dishes, since the author was brought up in Shunde, where they did use milk. Acoording to him, one of the big reasons that milk isn't widely used in Chinese cooking isnt just the latose isse; it's that in that part of the world, most places that use milk like to get it from Water Buffalo, not cows, so milk tends to be confined to those areas where Water Buffalo are common; common enough to not worry that taking milk from your buffalo isn't going to damage you future livelyhood (by risking having your next calf not be as strong as it could possibly be).

                                                      1. re: jumpingmonk
                                                        buttertart RE: jumpingmonk Sep 21, 2012 08:59 AM

                                                        One of the specialities of that very special city, Suzhou, in the Ming was dairy products. Original sources do not specify what sort.

                                                        1. re: jumpingmonk
                                                          MacGuffin RE: jumpingmonk Sep 24, 2012 09:29 AM

                                                          Is your "one of the fancier restaurants" reference to Phoenix Garden by any chance? I remember when they were a hole in the wall in the Elizabeth St. arcade years ago and in fact, that dish was the first I ordered there (long before I became a vegetarian). They're still not fancy but the item's still on the menu.

                                                          1. re: MacGuffin
                                                            jumpingmonk RE: MacGuffin Sep 24, 2012 12:24 PM

                                                            That's the one, I called it fancier to compare it to the numerous little "hole in the wall places" around. And they've gone a little more upscale ever since they moved to Midtown.

                                                            1. re: jumpingmonk
                                                              MacGuffin RE: jumpingmonk Sep 24, 2012 12:39 PM

                                                              I haven't been there in awhile but have always liked it (especially the snow pea leaves which are out of this world). I still wouldn't call it fancy but I really do miss that there aren't as many of those little holes in the wall as there used to be. I liked being able to pick up perfectly decent cheap eats when the mood struck.

                                                              I remember really liking the fried milk; I actually sought out Phoenix Garden years ago because Seymour Britchky glowingly reviewed it and singled out the fried milk as one of his favorites. I remember thinking it was an especially nice cold-weather dish.

                                                              1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                jumpingmonk RE: MacGuffin Sep 24, 2012 04:14 PM

                                                                Agreed. Though in the interest of being honest (as opposed to nice) I have to say I really don't like thier iteration of Lo Mein (that is, fat udon noodles and no sauce except oil) But I do like thier mai fun (well their home style mai fun) so that's alright. I suppose the problem is that Lo Mein as most americans are used to it is really a northern Chinese dish. I imagine PG's verison must be some sort of Cantonese variation.

                                                      2. j
                                                        Jerome RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 04:23 PM

                                                        If you mean western asia or south asia, lots of milk and butter and cheeses and yogurts. if you mean east and southeast asia, depends. As you see above, japan has certainly adapted to dairy consumption.
                                                        traditionally, depends. in China, many minority peoples are traditionally herders. So mongols have a long history of milk, yogurt, butter and cheese consumption, although they are as likely to use mare's milk as ewe's or cow's milk. In Bejing, it has always been very easy to buy the local yogurt, slightly sweetened as a choice. cow's milk. In the port cities like canton and shanghai, there's been some dairy consumption since the late 19th cent. I had some milk inshanghai in 1982 and it wasn't homogenized, sold in a small glass bottle and the cream stuck to the tinfoil top, as i'd heard it described to me as being common in the US in the 30's and 40's. There are cabbage dishes with milk in the cantonese repertoire and some shanghai dishes as well.
                                                        But in much of china, the eastern and southern coastal strip but inland, there really wasn't a lot of room for grazing animals, so beef and lamb consumption were low among non-muslims. and we don't make cheese from sow's milk. my two cents.

                                                        1. Jetgirly RE: mucho gordo Sep 8, 2012 05:08 PM

                                                          This summer I was backpacking the Balkans and kept running into another traveler from Hong Kong. Every day he would go to the supermarket, buy a litre of yogurt and drink it in one go. He said that he loved dairy products but didn't consider the dairy products in Hong Kong to be safe, due to concerns around Chinese "manufacturing" processes.

                                                          1. d
                                                            DJade RE: mucho gordo Sep 15, 2012 02:21 PM

                                                            This is just the experience of one person, but as someone born in the US and surrounded by dairy 24/7, it still boggles my mind when my mother tells me she never had any dairy until she was 26. A new restaurant opened in her town in Taiwan and it sold....pizza! Her first dairy experience was the cheese on a slice of Hawaiian.

                                                            1. t
                                                              tastesgoodwhatisit RE: mucho gordo Sep 16, 2012 05:50 AM

                                                              I live in Taiwan, and while dairy is available here, it's definitely not a large part of the traditional cuisine. Off hand, the only dishes with dairy in them that spring to mind are corn chowder (maybe, it may be cornstarch thickened), and the deep fried cheese wontons at my favourite northern Chinese restaurant (listed on the menu as "milk tofu").

                                                              Bubble tea was invented here, but it is always made from powdered, not fresh, milk.

                                                              In the grocery store, the cheese is all imported, and there is a limited selection of cream (ie, UHT whipping cream, and nothing else). Ice cream is available, in many local flavours (green tea, sesame, red bean, taro), and dairy is used in baked goods, which are more inspired by European tradition - the Taiwanese traditional desserts are very different.

                                                              If you head up towards Mongolia, I think you start getting more dairy in the traditional food.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                                borntolovefood RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Oct 17, 2012 09:10 AM

                                                                Was born in China but grew up in Taiwan. Had plenty of Klim (dry milk powder) when I was little. Tasted fresh milk for the first time when I started college - the experimental dairy farm ran by the Department of Husbandry at National Taiwan U supplied the school's 'food court' with fresh cow's milk, something not available to consumers on the markets at that time. No, dairy was not part of our traditional diet then.

                                                                There are, however, many Chinese tribes that have been herding animals for ages. My impression is they live primarily in the north, west and southwest regions. These folks are familiar with a diary-centered diet. We, on the other hand, are not familiar with what they eat.

                                                                But living in the U.S. has greatly expanded my eating experience. After decades of sampling I now can out eat most people on cheeses - not only have I eaten nothing but cheese all day long but I have also graduated to enjoy the stinkiest. On cheese-eating days a sign hangs on my office door says, 'Eating XXX today, enter at your own risk' to warn off coworkers who has a low tolerance of certain smell.

                                                                I still do not drink milk, claiming lactose intolerance.

                                                                1. re: borntolovefood
                                                                  huiray RE: borntolovefood Oct 17, 2012 09:18 AM

                                                                  Heh. Well, when you were a young 'un you almost certainly still had lactase production going on, as would have all babies and most young kids all over.

                                                                  Cheeses, on the other hand - and especially hard cheeses, as Ruth Lafler mentioned above, have much less lactose [except for stuff like feta, limberger, cottage cheese...and Velveeta :-)] as compared with milk. ;-)

                                                              2. raytamsgv RE: mucho gordo Sep 21, 2012 11:08 AM

                                                                The Vietnamese use butter in their sandwiches, and they make some pretty good croissants due to the years of French occupation.

                                                                1. j
                                                                  John Francis RE: mucho gordo Sep 24, 2012 03:21 PM

                                                                  I've heard that Asians are lactose-intolerant. Whether this is the cause or the effect of their diet lacking any dairy foods, I don't know.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: John Francis
                                                                    tastesgoodwhatisit RE: John Francis Sep 25, 2012 01:48 AM

                                                                    My understanding is that the societies that historically ate a lot of dairy (Europe, India, Mongolia, parts of Africa) developed the ability to easily digest those dairy products - being able to do so would be a survival benefit, as you'd get more calories. For societies that did not traditionally use dairy, such as East Asians and North American Aborigines, there was no benefit to developing that ability, so today they are much less likely to be able to do so easily.

                                                                    I'm not sure, but there may be a diet component as well - if you keep drinking milk continuously after being weaned, you can maintain the ability. If you stop consuming dairy for a long period of time, your body may lose that ability (like rennet being extract from baby cows and not grass eating adults).

                                                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                                      MacGuffin RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Sep 25, 2012 05:44 AM

                                                                      There was always (and still is) dairy in my parents' home and they consumed it daily (my dad still does). It didn't keep my mom from becoming lactose-intolerant. I, on the other hand, underwent at least two 11-month forays into veganism (my plan was for 11 months on, one off) that had no impact whatsoever on my ability to handle dairy. I'd also add that domestic dogs and cats often lose the ability to handle milk once they reach maturity although what they're usually offered is cow milk, so maybe that makes a difference. Interestingly, I've read that data exist which claim higher rates of osteoporosis in countries that have high dairy consumption than in those that don't. I don't know, however, how reliable the studies are on which the data are based.

                                                                      1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                        John Francis RE: MacGuffin Sep 25, 2012 07:48 AM

                                                                        Lactose intolerance is almost always genetically determined, isn't it? Lactose tolerance or intolerance would evolve through many generations, not as a short-term response to what you yourself eat and drink.

                                                                        1. re: John Francis
                                                                          MacGuffin RE: John Francis Sep 25, 2012 08:04 AM

                                                                          I honestly don't know, I was responding to tastesgood's post (in particular the second paragraph). From no less an authority than NIH: "However, sometime after weaning, in the majority of the world’s children, there is a genetically programmed decrease in lactase (lactase nonpersisters)." Taken from the point of view that milk is to nurture infants, it's not surprising that non-infants--regardless of species--become lactose-intolerant. Who knows, though? Maybe countless generations of herding dairy animals eventually favored continued lactase production in some populations.

                                                                          1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                            John Francis RE: MacGuffin Sep 25, 2012 02:22 PM

                                                                            Something certainly did, and undoubtedly it took a long time.

                                                                  2. c
                                                                    Chowrin RE: mucho gordo Oct 16, 2012 05:47 PM

                                                                    Google for the legend of strawberry milk.
                                                                    you will not be disappointed.

                                                                    1. b
                                                                      BuildingMyBento RE: mucho gordo Oct 17, 2012 08:30 PM

                                                                      Japan's dairy centers are Hokkaido/northern Japan. Milk is ubiquitous in that country (at least in the four main islands).

                                                                      Indonesia, hmm. Stick with the imported stuff. They mostly have powdered milk.

                                                                      Inner Mongolia, China seems to be the dairy center of the country, with Mengniu as a leading brand. I haven't yet found a Chinese brand of milk I enjoy, but whatever, it's not a place you think of when you think of dairy. On the other hand, at least in Guangdong province, the Kowloon Dairy has alright stuff, and Guangming seems tolerable too.
                                                                      Also, Xinjiang and Islam-influenced provinces/autonomous regions are known for their yoghurt, and let's not forget yak butter tea from Xizang (Tibet)...

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: BuildingMyBento
                                                                        MacGuffin RE: BuildingMyBento Oct 17, 2012 08:56 PM

                                                                        Yak butter tea can get you into some SERIOUS trouble if over-consumed. Fluorosis is apparently rampant there and most of the blame is put on the tea (it seems to me that there's a grain-based dish they eat that's also to blame but for the life of me I don't remember its name). Interesting coincidence that you brought it up because I just remembered yesterday, quite out of the blue, that I considered buying some Tibetan brick tea on eBay several years ago.
                                                                        Has milk always been ubiquitous in northern Japan?

                                                                        1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                          Tripeler RE: MacGuffin Oct 17, 2012 09:31 PM

                                                                          Milk in northern Japan? As far as I know, not before 1860 or so. I think it was the Christian missionaries who originally helped introduce it to Hokkaido in the late 19th century. Still, it wasn't particularly commonplace in the diet in Japan until after WWII.

                                                                          1. re: Tripeler
                                                                            MacGuffin RE: Tripeler Oct 17, 2012 09:34 PM

                                                                            I suspected as much but one can't assume these things. :)

                                                                            1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                              Silverjay RE: MacGuffin Oct 18, 2012 09:15 AM

                                                                              There were dairies and milk stores in Japan from the 15th century on in Japan, after the arrival of Christian missionaries. But milk didn't go well with Japanese cuisine and also the Tokugawa regime discouraged cattle production to conserve land for rice growing. In the Meiji Era, when Japan opened up and modernized, the national government established a dairy industry in Hokkaido. This was in the late 19th century. Hokkaido is not good for growing rice and the island had pretty been annexed to be part of modern Japan, so it was a good location.

                                                                              Introducing milk to the Japanese diet was seen as a means to provide vitamins and other health elements that the Japanese diet was deficient in. In post-WWII Japan, the government implemented a children's school lunch program that included milk. Japan also had milkmen who drove around and delivered to homes, just like in the U.S.

                                                                              My wife is Japanese and neither she, nor anyone in her family seem to suffer ill effects from consuming dairy. She herself drinks more milk in a week than I do in a year. While consumption of dairy in Japan is not as high as Western countries, dairy products pretty much maintain a similar level of ubiquity.

                                                                              1. re: Silverjay
                                                                                Tripeler RE: Silverjay Oct 18, 2012 09:11 PM

                                                                                Thanks, Matt, and good to see your original avatar. I didn't know milk was sold in Japan from the 15th century. I wonder how it was advertised?

                                                                                1. re: Tripeler
                                                                                  Jerome RE: Tripeler Oct 19, 2012 02:03 AM

                                                                                  yeah. beer has been sold in Iraq/Mesopotamia since the third millenium bc(e). So I'd like to see those ad campaigns as well.
                                                                                  (point being, vasco da gama makes it to India in 1490's. very unlikely western christian missionaries have gotten to Japan in that century. 16th is very different story, portuguese are in nagasaki in the 16th, though i've never heard of a link to milk, only to say, tempura).

                                                                                  1. re: Jerome
                                                                                    Silverjay RE: Jerome Oct 19, 2012 05:51 AM

                                                                                    Yes, 16th century. I had in my head 1500's. I don't remember where I read about the stores. But it was one of the Tokugawa shoguns that set them up.

                                                                      2. LightMyFire67 RE: mucho gordo Apr 8, 2013 06:44 AM

                                                                        A lot of Asians are lactose intolerant but Indians use a lot of yogurt and ghee in their cooking.

                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                        1. re: LightMyFire67
                                                                          MacGuffin RE: LightMyFire67 Apr 8, 2013 09:31 AM

                                                                          Maybe lactose intolerance is more of an East Asian thing?

                                                                          1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                            Chowrin RE: MacGuffin Apr 15, 2013 07:48 PM

                                                                            yogurt means that the lactose is generally predigested before it hits your tummy.

                                                                            1. re: Chowrin
                                                                              MacGuffin RE: Chowrin Apr 15, 2013 08:01 PM

                                                                              Get your science right. It's thought that the bacteria in yogurt help to digest milk in the gut--it has nothing to do with "predigested lactose." My mother is lactose-intolerant. She doesn't handle yogurt any better than other dairy products (and yeah, we've tried a bunch of brands, including those that claim to have live cultures). The only thing that helps her is Lactaid, i.e. commercially produced lactase.

                                                                              1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                hotoynoodle RE: MacGuffin Apr 16, 2013 03:09 PM

                                                                                the FACT is, lactose is milk sugar and gets consumed during fermentation. so fermented dairy, like yogurt and harder cheese, have less lactose than fresh, like ricotta.

                                                                                some people with lactose issues can handle the former.

                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                  MacGuffin RE: hotoynoodle Apr 16, 2013 04:04 PM

                                                                                  From the NIH site (real scientists work there): "Yogurt made with active and live bacterial cultures is a good source of calcium for many people with lactose intolerance. When this type of yogurt enters the intestine, the bacterial cultures convert lactose to lactic acid, so the yogurt may be well-tolerated due to a lower lactose content than yogurt without live cultures."

                                                                                  Note: no mention of predigested (or consumed) lactose; everything occurs in the gut, not before. And I know what lactose is.

                                                                                  1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                    hotoynoodle RE: MacGuffin Apr 16, 2013 05:02 PM

                                                                                    from pubmed:

                                                                                    The lactose, glucose, and galactose content in various fermented milk products was studied by enzymatic methods. Lactose was decreased in all fermented products. After 11 days storage of yogurt the lactose content decreased to about 2.3 g/100 compared to 4.8 g/100 g in nonfermented milk. During the same period, galactose content increased from traces in milk to 1.3 g/100 g in yogurt. Results were similar with acidophilus and bifidus milk. Buttermilk, kefir, and ropy milk showed 26, 30, and 20% decreases in lactose content. Eight lactose intolerant individuals showed symptoms of abdominal distress and diarrhea following consumption of 500 ml of low fat milk whereas ingestion of the same quantity of yogurt or acidophilus milk did not result in any symptoms. Fermented milk products should be considered in formulating diets for lactose-intolerant subjects.


                                                                                    as i said, fermented dairy contains lower levels of lactose.

                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                      MacGuffin RE: hotoynoodle Apr 16, 2013 05:39 PM

                                                                                      Would you mind providing the link to the entire study?

                                                                                      1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                        hotoynoodle RE: MacGuffin Apr 17, 2013 06:51 AM


                                                                                        sorry, but i don't have a subscription, but that's the link to the abstract.

                                                                                        harder cheeses and fermented dairy are also acceptable in early phases of atkins, because they contain less lactose, i.e., less sugar, i.e. less carbs.

                                                                                        fermenting dairy is just like making wine. the yeasts gobble up the sugars in the grape juice, leaving back only a trace.

                                                                                        btw, for many years i thought i was lactose-intolerant. turned out my issue was the grain product i always consumed with them

                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                          MacGuffin RE: hotoynoodle Apr 21, 2013 12:06 PM

                                                                                          Thanks for posting; I'm hoping I can read the study in its entirety (perhaps my university can give me access).

                                                                                          1. re: MacGuffin
                                                                                            hotoynoodle RE: MacGuffin Apr 22, 2013 08:45 AM

                                                                                            you're welcome. :) hope it helps. numerous sources on the web discussing how fermentation eats milk sugars, i.e. lactose.

                                                                                            some can tolerate more than others, while some actually have a casein issue, which is often mis-diagnosed. switching to goat- or sheep-milk products often helps those people.

                                                                        2. c oliver RE: mucho gordo Apr 17, 2013 02:11 PM

                                                                          I recently took an Asian dumpling class and paneer was part of the filling for one we made.


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