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What Is Rubing?

By Ray Hawk
Updated May 17, 2024
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Rubing, which is literally translated from the Chinese phrase milk cake, is a form of semi-soft white cheese made from goat's milk that has less of a pungent smell than traditional goat's cheese. It is produced in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China by descendents of the Yi minority, who refer to themselves as the Bai or Sani people. A common method of serving the cheese locally is as Shuijian Rubing, which involves frying it and providing salty, spicy, or sugar-based dips for it as an appetizer. It has been compared to the Greek cheese Haloumi, which is also a salty white cheese produced from sheep's milk, and commonly grilled or fried before being eaten.

The Bai people sometimes refer to Rubing cheese as Youdbap, which is a translation of the term goat's milk. It is a farmer cheese that is not aged before being eaten, and is produced by heating goat's milk and souring it with a chemical made from vines or with vinegar. After Rubing cheese is produced, which takes less than an hour, it is drained in the cheesecloth for half-an-hour, and can then be refrigerated for up to a week. It is not a cheese that can be easily melted, so its considered more of a supplement to meals than one to be added to other dishes.

Recipes as of 2011, however, often include it as a substitute for tofu in dinners, or as an additive to vegetable dishes containing tomatoes and broccoli. In Kunming, China, the capital of Yunnan Province, Rubing cheese is often added to a dish that contains broccoli and tomatoes, as well as garlic, soy sauce, and salt for flavoring, that are mixed together and heated in a wok. Yunnan cuisine considers Rubing to be fried goat's cheese because of the way it is most commonly eaten. Other contemporary recipes for it as of 2011 include mixing it with chocolate, rose flavorings, and sweetened milk. Restaurants in the region often serve it with a locally-produced ham known as Xuanhua ham.

Types of cheeses are usually lumped into one of two categories, being either rennet-set or acid-set in nature. Rubing is a form of acid-set cheese, which is a category of softer cheeses, or farmer cheeses formed by adding bacterial cultures or souring agents to milk. They are quickly prepared and often have short or no aging process involved before they are eaten, unlike hard rennet-set cheeses like cheddar that increase in flavor as they age. Goat's milk cheeses related to the original Yunnan Rubing are produced in many regions, such as Rubing Queijo made in Arabic nations, Rubing Queso from Spain, and Rubing fromage from France.

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