(Nakhon Pathom) Sprinkled with bamboo ashes, or wrapped in pandan leaves: in Thailand, Rachanikorn Srikong composes goat cheeses by adding a local touch, to popularize a still confidential but dynamic production.
In the land of sticky rice with mango, the national dessert, cheese remains the prerogative of a minority capable of paying a high price for products shipped from abroad.
But a handful of pioneers have embarked on artisanal and local production, with the hope of changing stubborn culinary habits.
Their “made in Thailand” cheeses have caught the eye of starred restaurants in Bangkok, amid growing consumer openness to foreign dishes.
Rachanikorn Srikong, who grew up on “tofu with rice,” concedes she started from scratch seven years ago. She studied her new art in books.
At first, she started out as “a blind painter”, unable to judge the quality of her work, she recalls.
This veterinarian found her recipe by making the connection with the pungent smell of fermented fish, a popular seasoning in Thailand.
It’s the taste that “makes you happy, and reconnects you with mom’s food,” says the 47-year-old.
Today, she produces fifteen varieties of goat cheese on her small farm in Nakhon Pathom province, an hour’s drive from Bangkok.
Some carry a Thai touch, like a bamboo ash wrap: “I’m worried about carbon dioxide emissions, I don’t want to import anything,” she says.
Its thirty goats live in a barn, arranged in such a way as to take advantage of the shade of neighboring trees, precious in sometimes extreme heat conditions.
In her lab, this self-proclaimed “science geek” ferments using cultures different from those used in Europe, which can withstand the humidity and heat of the local climate.
“I had to fail in every way possible. After that, you can have the perfect gesture,” she says.
After weeks of careful preparation, its products are sold in more than a dozen international restaurants in Bangkok or in hotels on the tourist island of Phuket (south).
Thailand usually consumes few dairy products, and many of its inhabitants are lactose intolerant.
But the popularity of cheese is growing, with the market growing nearly 6% between 2016 and 2020.
The best thing about making cheese is “making people smile,” she insists.
“I don’t sell cheese. I provide happiness… Life is good, but cheese makes it better. »