Cheese is typically associated with Western cuisine. The ancient Greeks even had a god for it — Aristaios. The son of Apollo was believed to have brought cheese making, along with honey, olive growing and medicinal herbs, to his people.
But the world’s oldest cheese has been found halfway around the globe — in China, of all places. This surprising twist was revealed in 2014 as archaeologists unearthed mummified Bronze Age bodies from 1615 BC in the Taklamakan Desert of northwest China. Traces of 3,500-year-old cheese were discovered on the bodies. The dry air and salt-heavy soil are said to have kept the cheese, which is a simple-to-make, lactose-free variety, from decaying.
Today, cheese is emerging in Asian cuisine in a big way. Its latest incarnation is in the form of cheese tarts — sweet, creamy and slightly salty cheese mousse seated on a buttery tart base. Here’s a round-up of three cheese tarts that have stolen the hearts and palates of Singaporeans.
BAKE Cheese Tarts
BAKE Co Ltd made headlines even before its first store in Singapore opened in end April 2016. The buzz over the brand’s freshly baked cheese tarts was heightened by raving testimonials from locals who had tasted it in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand.
When Inside visited the store in ION Orchard on a weekday afternoon, there were about 30 people in the queue. The wait was estimated to be two hours, presumably because the tarts are freshly baked and need to rest for 30 minutes before they can be sold.
The Hokkaido-based brand uses mild-flavoured cheese from Hakodate and a full-bodied one from Betsukai, blended together with a saltier French cheese to produce its signature three-cheese mousse. The mousse goes into a cookie-tart pastry that is first baked in Japan, then baked once again in store.
BAKE recommends eating the cheese tarts right away and advises customers to refrigerate the tarts if that is not the case. The tarts can be eaten chilled, frozen (for an interesting ice-cream-like texture) or after they are warmed in a toaster oven.
Customers may buy up to 12 tarts each. They cost $3.50 for one or $19.50 for a box of six.
Pastry Snaffle’s, which originates from Hakodate in Hokkaido, Japan, places great emphasis on its ingredients, choosing to use only fresh milk from Onuma in southwest Hokkaido, a specific brand of eggs from corn-and-millet-fed chickens and its own cream cheese recipe.
When it arrived in Singapore in 2013, its store at Plaza Singapura was the de facto gathering place for cheese lovers. Its catch cakes, a light fluffy cheesecake, were the talk of the town for their melt-in-the-mouth goodness. Now, customers are vying for the brand’s delectable cheese tarts, which come in three flavours. According to Snaffle’s, their original tart is the most popular option. Mango cheese tarts and blueberry cheese tarts are also available.
Its original cheese tarts cost $18 for a box of seven, while the mango and blueberry versions are sold for $19.80 for a box of six.
About two weeks before BAKE’s store opening, local bakery Prima Deli launched its own version of cheese tarts. According to media reports, the bakery chain had been developing the recipe since January this year, marrying two of the hottest food trends — salted egg yolk and cheese tarts — to create its original and salted yolk lava cheese tarts. The chain is said to sell more than 7,000 of these a day.
To experience the oozing goodness of its cheese tarts, Prima Deli recommends that they be eaten upon purchase. The tarts can be refrigerated and reheated in an oven but should be consumed within 24 hours.
Prima Deli’s original lava cheese tarts cost $2.40 a piece while the salted yolk cheese tarts sell for $2.80 a piece. Limited quantities available daily.
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