Deng Zhangyu

A lot of love goes into the buf­falo milk and moz­zarella that is pro­duced out of Teng­chong in Yun­nan, the phys­i­cal fruits of an eco-friendly life­style preva­lent in the re­gion. finds out more.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

In a coun­try where dairy prod­ucts are still not part of the daily diet of the masses, Ouyang Yuancheng is sell­ing wa­ter-buf­falo moz­zarella, a niche prod­uct even in some rel­a­tively West­ern­ized coun­tries.

His cheese is made from Chi­nese buf­falo milk pro­duced in the south­west prov­ince of Yun­nan. Ouyang clearly un­der­stands it’s a tough road to per­suade Chi­nese con­sumers to ac­cept such a rare del­i­cacy, but he per­sists in the be­lief that his con­sumers de­serve the best and safest prod­ucts.

Just look­ing at the be­spec­ta­cled young man, it is hard to think of him as a hard­core sales­man.

All you have to do to get him go­ing, how­ever, is to men­tion “milk” and “moz­zarella” and all the ar­ti­san terms slip out of him so eas­ily you would think he is a sea­soned ex­pert — which he is.

The 33-year-old spent six years study­ing food safety and curd fer­men­ta­tion in China and atWa­genin­gen Univer­sity in the Nether­lands. He was a lab­o­ra­tory man, and that is why he keeps on ex­per­i­ment­ing with moz­zarella recipes for Chi­nese con­sumers.

“Few Chi­nese ac­cept the taste of cheese eas­ily. So I have to teachthemhowto eat buf­falo cheese in ways they are fa­mil­iar with,” says Ouyang.

Though many of his rec­om­mended recipes are tra­di­tional ones— the clas­sic salad with sliced moz­zarella on top of toma­toes, and pizza top­ping— he re­cently posted pic­tures on his mi­cro blog show­ing how to cook moz­zarella in hotpot, a cre­ative ex­per­i­ment.

In his moz­zarella fac­tory in Teng­chong, he has a restau­rant of­fer­ing eight Chi­ne­ses­tyle dishes us­ing buf­falo moz­zarella.

The cheese in Chi­nese su­per­mar­kets, says Ouyang, is mostly the pro­cessed cheese cater­ing to con­sumers who know no bet­ter. He says more than 80 per­cent of the in­gre­di­ents in pro­cessed cheese are ad­di­tives, such as su­gar and starch.

“It means there is 80 per­cent un­cer­tainty in terms of food safety,” he says. He in­sists on pro­duc­ing cheese made from pure buf­falo milk.

It is easy to tell a good moz­zarella from in­fe­rior cheese, Ouyang says, by test­ing how elas­tic it is. If there are ad­di­tives, he says, the strands will break eas­ily when the moz­zarella is stretched.

Buf­falo milk con­tains high lev­els of pro­tein and there is no need to add chem­i­cals to im­prove the lev­els of pro­tein, the main rea­son why melamine was found added to milk in China in 2008, a scan­dal which al­most de­stroyed the dairy in­dus­try.

Ouyang says he has got­ten high praise from some con­sumers. That ac­tu­ally makes him ner­vous, be­cause he feels it shows that Chi­nese con­sumers are still very dis­ap­pointed in the dairy in­dus­try in gen­eral.

“That’s just what nat­u­ral moz­zarella should taste like,” he says. “You can’t have the taste of meat from moz­zarella.”

His buf­falo milk comes from Teng­chong, a pic­turesque town sur­rounded by forests and moun­tains, where Ouyang says his Aiai Dairy Farm gets milk from about 10,000 buf­faloes af­ter sign­ing up lo­cal famers.

The dairy is­sues cer­tifi­cates to famers who pro­duce milk that­meets their re­quire­ments.

To keep milk safe, the dairy asks farm­ers to mark milk con­tam­i­nated by an­tibi­otics used on sick buf­faloes. Ouyang still pays the same price for con­tam­i­nated milk, even though it is not used, so farm­ers are will­ing to tell the truth.

Cur­rently, Ouyang’s fac­tory uses buf­falo milk pro­vided by a vil­lage on the hill­side of Gaoligong Moun­tain. The vil­lagers here still live very sim­ply; they don’t need to close their doors while sleep­ing at night. With about five months of rain each year, the area boasts more than 70 per­cent forested land.

“We’ve tried buf­falo milk from other places, but only milk pro­duced in this vil­lage is per­fect,” says Ouyang. He spends most of his time in Bei­jing, push­ing and pro­mot­ing sales, but he al­ways grabs the chance to visit the vil­lage ev­ery year.

Ouyang says he has vis­ited cheese fac­to­ries in Europe and they all have the ad­van­tages of fresh air, good wa­ter and healthy earth that guar­an­tee the qual­ity of cheese. All are well man­aged even though they may be small com­pared to fac­to­ries in China.

Teng­chong’s en­vi­ron­ment gives him the con­fi­dence to com­pete with im­ported moz­zarella.

Ouyang knows the cheese mar­ket in China is still very small and will need a lot more work. He him­self was only ex­posed to cheese when he went to the Nether­lands for his mas­ter’s de­gree.

Apart from buf­falo moz­zarella, Ouyang also sells buf­falo milk in Bei­jing, and that seems even more pop­u­lar.

What sets this young idealist apart is his com­mit­ment to food safety. He of­ten goes the ex­tra mile to re­mind his clients of when to fin­ish up the milk and the moz­zarella, and how to store them prop­erly.

He is al­ways care­ful to make sure his prod­ucts are prop­erly han­dled at the right tem­per­a­tures in tran­sit and stor­age, and that his con­sumers get them de­liv­ered freshly har­vested from the Teng­chong wa­ter buf­faloes.

“Many of my Chi­nese con­sumers are young par­ents,” he says. “They buy moz­zarella for their chil­dren for the sake of nu­tri­tion. The cheese mar­ket is still pretty prim­i­tive here.” Con­tact the writer at dengzhangyu@ chi­

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