Cheese isn’t that much of a staple in the local food scene, except for special occasions when bite-sized cheeses are mixed in with fruit salads (only in the Philippines, right?).
But come to think of it, cheese is actually an integral part of modern-day cuisine. I know I am no cheesemonger but I’d like to believe that everyone would agree that cheese makes everything better.
Just imagine Filipino-style spaghetti without the flavors of grated cheese. Or pizzas and hamburgers without the famous cheese stretch? Not a chance! However, not all cheeses taste (and smell) the same. Some have fruitier flavors while some rest on the tangier and saltier spectrum.
Other cheeses are more brittle like Parmigiano-Reggiano, while some have softer and creamier textures like feta. Point is, the rich flavors of cheese can be appreciated even more when it’s served with its perfect match.
To level up our knowledge of cheese further, I curated a list of five of the best and most famous cheeses you could try out for your next adventure in the kitchen.
Nope, this isn’t the same as the parmesan with which we abusively sprinkle our pizzas. Although similar in the cheesemaking process, Parmigiano-Reggiano is said to be the real deal.
The Italian-born cheese is only made from three all-natural ingredients: milk, salt, and an enzyme called rennet. Interestingly, Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be processed in Italy since it is subjected to something called the Denominazione di Origine Protetta (translation: Protected Designation of Origin)—that’s why the normal parmesan we see on grocery shelves is only treated as an imitation.
Food critics say that Parmigiano-Reggiano is best eaten as is, especially if you want to savor the authentic experience. Since it boasts of its natural ingredients and a long aging period, it produces a naturally strong nutty and fruity—yet not bitter—taste which makes it pleasant for the tongue.
But if you want to be a little more adventurous, this cheese goes perfectly well with fine-aged balsamic vinegar. Its rich and sweet flavors are a perfect balance to Parmigiano-Reggiano’s nutty flavor. Surely, a feast in your mouth.
Hailing from the quaint village of Cheddar in England, cheddar cheese is known as the heart of various dishes like grilled sandwiches and mac n’ cheese. Cheddar usually appears as blocks and when cut, breaks away or crumbles. In the same fashion, cheddar also has a crumbly texture but this is due to the cycles of cutting and restacking done in the cheesemaking process, or cheddaring.
Cheddar cheeses differ in taste depending on how well-aged they are. If you want to enjoy cheddar as a mild and creamy snack, those aged from 1-3 months will do the trick. If you want stronger and tangier flavors, 3 months to 2-year-old cheddar may be the perfect fit for you. To even out the strong and salty flavors cheddar gives, something sweet like fruit jam on crackers and a can of beer will be a good complement.
As one of the most famous cheeses in the world, Mozzarella cheese has become a crowd favorite. From mozzarella sticks to the appetizing cheese balls mukbangers devour, mozzarella is definitely a cheese that’s friendlier to any person’s palate. It’s especially a treat for big fans of milky flavors, since mozzarella is made from whole cow’s milk or water buffalo’s milk. Its creamy consistency is a fresh delight to the mouth.
The key to enjoying Mozzarella is preserving its natural freshness, experts say that it’s best paired with equally light white wines. For food, mozzarella is best paired with tomatoes or zucchini, drizzled with a bit of olive oil.
Have you ever wondered what that cheese with yellow or red wax is called?
It’s called Gouda—Netherlands’ inarguably most renowned cheese. Just like other cheeses, Gouda emits different tastes depending on its age.
From this list, its flavor profile can be likened most to Parmigiano-Reggiano, ranging from mild and fruity for younger-aged Gouda to salty and nutty for older-aged Gouda. However, Gouda cheese has a milder and fresher texture than that of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Gouda is a go-to for sandwiches, crackers, bread, and strong beer or wines with high acidity.
Last on the list is a type of vegetarian cheese from South Asia specifically in India, called Paneer.
Unlike other cheeses, making Paneer does not involve the addition of rennet; instead, it only uses milk and acid (either from lemon or lime, yogurt, or other citric acids). This produces a soft type of cheese that does not crumble and melt which makes it a great alternative to tofu
Paneer’s fresh and slightly sweet flavor profile is best supplemented with spicy and strong cuisine like curry dishes.
This is not all the cheese in the world so this is an excuse for you to go and head out to your local artisan cheese store and learn more about the rich history of cheese. Seriously, what would the world be without cheese?