(CNN) – Once the fog descends over the hilly mountain peaks, the greenery is all you can see in Dalat, a mountainous area in the Central Highlands of southern Vietnam.
The best agricultural producer in the country, it is a popular destination for Vietnamese and international tourists.
But Dalat is also gaining fame for a rather unexpected reason – it is the source of some of the best cheeses produced in Asia, including creamy mozzarella, burrata and camembert.
Le Petit Paris
In the early 1900s, Dalat was a cold summer vacation for the French during the occupation of Vietnam. So popular, that he was nicknamed “Le Petit Paris.”
The French influence of the region can still be felt in colonial art-deco architecture, paved boulevards and, most of all, food.
From baguettes to pâtés, the French imported and introduced a number of culinary ingredients at the time – including cheese.
A large chunk of Vietnamese cheese is made here that is sold and sold to hotels, restaurants and dairy shops across the region.
High altitude and colder climate make it the main environment for the development of dairy cows and the production of top quality milk.
Initially, the Don Duong cheese factory started using less than 50 liters of milk per day. Today, 30 workers use 5,000 liters a day to make 13 different types of cheese, from ricotta to bocconcini. All their cheese is 100% natural, without additives.
As for milk, their supply comes from various farmers and producers like Dalat Dairy Farm. But in an effort to further improve milk quality and consistency, Pizza 4P now wants to build its own dairy farm.
Farm to the table in 24 hours
Pizza 4P produces high quality mozzarella on a Dalat cheese farm.
Courteey Pizza 4P’s
Within 24 hours of making the cheese, it is delivered to Pizza 4P restaurants in Saigon, Hanoi, Nha Trang and Danang.
One of their most prominent menu items is their camembert.
“Our camembert cheese was developed in collaboration with a craftsman who was educated in France,” says Keinosuke Konuki, director of the Pizza 4P cheese factory in Dalat.
But Pizza 4P’s most popular cheeses are their creamy burrata and mozzarella, generously fried on all of their pizzas and generously sliced to reveal a creamy centerpiece. Every day, the farms make a staggering 1,500 to 2,000 pieces of burrata and 2,000 to 3,000 balls of mozzarella by hand.
Although the area has strong French connections, Pizza 4P clearly shows that they do not mimic the techniques used in Italy and France.
“Despite the French influence, of course, we developed the cheese in our own way,” says Konuki.
“We produce cheese in Vietnam and we can’t get information as easily as in Europe. All we can do is try and make mistakes. It takes time and effort.”
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“There hasn’t been much history of cheese production in Dalat recently,” Franklin says. “It seems like the French are happy to import cheese from their home country, and the Vietnamese didn’t have a great affinity for cheese, with the exception of the ‘Laughing Cow’ cheese.”
Laughing Cow, a global cheese brand, is commonly used throughout the country, as are street-style street pizzas, which are said to have originated in Dalat.
Franklin, known for his elevated fusion with street food, makes his version using Don Duong cheese mozzarella and scamorza cheese factory and an abundance of fresh herbs from the region.
Franklin is currently creating the Dalat Room, a private dining room in his restaurant. The wooden floors of the cheekbones in the room, the green accents and the living plants were supposed to channel the deciduous green forests of the area.
His “Dalat” tasting menu will feature Dalat cheese, artichokes and strawberries “grown during the French colonial era”.
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