Making Mr Song’s Cheese China appreciated cheese and dairy long before it was decided they couldn’t

Two water buffalo ink on silk scroll by Gao Qifeng

Miranda Brown successfully stretches Mr Song's string cheese
Miranda Brown successfully stretches Mr Song’s string cheese
I’ve long believed that the reason there is no milk or cheese in Chinese food culture today is because ethnic Chinese people are likely to be lactose intolerant. But that may well be an oversimplification. In looking at old texts, Professor Miranda Brown of Michigan University discovered recipes and advice on butter, milk and cheeses. So she set about trying to make the cheeses, with some success. As for intolerance, yes, a study in 1984 concluded that 92% of Han Chinese exhibit “primary adult lactose malabsorption”. Nevertheless, milk consumption is growing rapidly in China and the genetic basis of intolerance may be more complicated than a simple, single gene.


  1. Miranda Brown is @Dong_Muda on Twitter. She wrote about Making Mr. Song’s Cheeses and in more detail about the cheeses and dairy in an article in Gastronomica which may be behind a paywall. She also has a recipe for cheese wontons.
  2. Her colleague, Alice Yao, recorded an interview on The problematic history of lactase persistence research but her host, the Human Biology Association, doesn’t really get podcasting.
  3. Here is the transcript.
  4. Banner image from Two Water Buffaloes by Gao Qifeng (1889–1933), from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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  • 💬 Jeremy Cherfas

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