(CNN) – Once the fog clears the hill tops, green is all you can see in Dalat, a mountainous region of the central highlands of southern Vietnam.
The country’s main agricultural producer is a popular tourist destination for both 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 nice summer break for the French during their occupation in Vietnam. So popular, it got the nickname “Le Petit Paris”.
The French influence of the region can still be felt in its colonial art deco architecture, in the cobbled avenues and, in particular, in its food.
From baguette to pate, the French imported and introduced numerous culinary ingredients during this period, including cheese.
Here, a large slice of Vietnamese cheese is produced and sold to hotels, restaurants and milk stores in the region.
The high altitude and cooler climate of the area make it a privileged environment for dairy cows that thrive and produce high quality milk.
Initially, the Don Duong dairy started using less than 50 liters of milk per day. Today 30 workers use 5,000 liters per day to produce 13 different types of cheeses, from ricotta to bite-sized pieces. All their cheese is 100% natural, without additives.
As for milk, their supply comes from various farmers and producers such as Dalat Milk Farm. But, in an attempt to further improve the quality and consistency of the milk, Pizza 4P’s is now looking to build its own dairy.
Farm at the table in 24 hours
Pizza 4P’s produces high quality mozzarella on its Dalat cheese farm.
Courteey Pizza 4P’s
Within 24 hours of cheese production, it is delivered to Pizza 4P restaurants in Saigon, Hanoi, Nha Trang and Danang.
One of their most important menu items is their camembert.
“Our camembert cheese was developed in collaboration with a craftsman trained in France,” says Keinosuke Konuki, director of the Pizza 4P dairy in Dalat.
But the most popular cheeses of Pizza 4P are their creamy burrata and mozzarella, generously sprinkled on all their pizzas and generously open to reveal a creamy center. Every day the farm’s hand produces from 1500 to 2000 pieces of burrata and from 2000 to 3000 mozzarella balls.
Although the area has strong ties to France, Pizza 4P makes it clear that they do not imitate the techniques used in Italy and France.
“Despite the French influence, of course, we developed the cheese our way,” says Konuki.
“We make cheese in Vietnam and we cannot easily acquire information, as in Europe. All we can do is trial and error. It takes time and effort.”
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“Until recently, there is not much history of cheese making in Dalat,” says Franklin. “It seems that the French were happy to import the cheese from their home country and that the Vietnamese did not have a great affinity for cheese, with the exception of the” Laughing Cow “cheese.”
The laughing cow, a global cheese brand, is commonly used in banh mi across the country, as well as in street-style rice paper pizzas, which are said to have been created in Dalat.
Franklin, known for his high fusion of street food, makes his version using mozzarella and scamorza from the Don Duong dairy and many fresh herbs from the region.
Franklin is currently creating the Dalat room, a private dining room in his restaurant. The room’s herringbone wood floors, green accents and live plants are designed to channel the area’s verdant forests.
His “Dalat tasting menu” will include Dalat cheese, artichokes and strawberries “grown during the French colonial era”.