Conventional wisdom says that cheese isn't fancied much in Asia, but that’s not necessarily true. In South Korea, like other Asian countries, cheese has become more and more popular in recent years, leading to a whole new category of food, combining cheese with spice.
One of these unusual combinations is a rich and creamy gouda cheese with Korean chilli, or gochugaru. Ever since the Korean War, when local populations were fed on American rations, including their yellow processed cheddar cheese, the dairy product has become a sought-after ingredient, and since the eighties, fresh cheeses like mozzarella have been regularly served alongside more traditional, spicy Korean foods.
More recently in Seoul, the rise of the 'matjip' movement, saw young, hip people seek out hidden restaurants with the hottest and spiciest food imaginable. Many back street eateries known for serving dangerously hot chilli wings became overnight successes as young people shared their spicy dining experiences over social media. As the hot sauces got hotter, it became necessary to serve something to counterbalance the heat.
The story goes that the owner of restaurant Hahm Ji Bak, in the blue-collar Sillim-dong neighbourhood of Seoul, saw a boom in customers looking for his super-hot stewed ribs, but none of his customers could manage seconds. Not wanting to tone down the heat in his ribs, he began combining mozzarella and other cheeses as a melty, fondue-type dip to cool down the mouth. It started a craze of hot food and cheese combinations.
One result of this combination of cheese and chilli is a gouda cheese with Korean chilli. It works wonderfully well as a flavour pairing because the relatively plain, nutty and fruity elements of the gouda act to neutralise the heat of the chilli, while allowing for a fragrant, spicy note.
Gouda cheese is a Dutch cheese, traditionally from the town of Gouda in The Netherlands, however, the name refers to the process of making it rather than its place of origin. It is typically made with washed curds, the curdled milk is washed with water which reduces the lactose content in the cheese for a milder, less dense cheese. It is perfect for adding flavours as its mild nature does not overpower the additive. The longer the cheese is aged, the stronger the flavour. A good gouda cheese is usually aged from 1 to 2 years.
Gouda Cheese with Korean Chilli Ingredients
10 litres of whole cow’s milk
1/4 tsp Flora Danica Culture
5ml of Rennet diluted in a quarter cup of water
250 g gochugaru chilli
1 Bulb Garlic, minced
Enjoy this retro video of Gouda cheese being made, from 1977,
How to Make Gouda Cheese Korean Chilli
To make gouda cheese with Korean chilli, you should follow the usual instructions for making gouda at home. Add the chilli flakes and minced garlic at the milk warming stage.
Warm the milk to 32º C or 90º F. This is the point to add your Korean chilli and minced garlic. Add the culture and stir well, leaving the pot covered to ripen for 15 minutes. Add the rennet and leave for 1 hour. Cut the curd into cubes and leave to sit for 10 minutes, pour off a third of the whey and then slowly add 80ºC/175ºF water to the curd until the overall temperature reaches 33ºC or 92ºF. Stir gently and leave to sit for 10 minutes.
Pour off the whey to the level of the curds. Slowly add more water at 80ºC or 175ºF to the curds until the overall temp reaches 38ºC or 100ºF. Leave curd for 30 mins and then pour out all the whey. Gently place the curds into a cloth-lined mould and press at 10kgs for about 30 minutes. Follow a typical pressing process for this kind of cheese before soaking your cheese in saturated brine for 12 hours. Then air-dry at 10°C for 3 weeks, wax and age the cheese at 10º C for as long as desired, typically 3 – 9 months.