Lactose lovers, cheese aficionados, and those of you who just like to read things about food: We’ve spent the last week eating, breathing (ew) and cooking with the nine cheeses we bought at Milky Whey.
A local fromage manufacturer, Milky Whey source their raw milk from local farms and make their products from a very sterile humble abode in the upmarket Hartamas neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur.
Two years ago, an article in a local paper caught our eye, profiling an expat Indonesian woman who had taken her love of a good Jarlsberg into somewhat of a cheese-making hobby. The hobby grew into larger scale production, and tl;dr — you can now buy a wheel of her 100% Malaysian-made goods.
Intrigued, we made a note that one day soon, we would try her wares. Plagued by the kind of procrastination that has meant a lifetime of last-minute everything, it took us a couple of years to get on it. We can safely say that this is something we deeply regret: We are very impressed with Milky Whey.
There is something inherently strange about the idea of cheese-making in the tropics — KL, as a city, is incredibly hot every day, and humidity ranges from very to ‘might as well be raining.’ We’re probably the last place on Earth anyone looking for cool conditions would come to, and we’ve come to terms with that because at least there’s the beach.
Wait, what? There’s no beach?
Puan Annisa Iwan’s shop, which doubles as her factory, that also triples as her home, is cooler than the other side of your pillow — and probably has the kind of electricity bill you’d expect from a 24-hour convenience store. Her multitude of cheeses are made upstairs, tended to frequently, monitored for temperature control, washed with brine, rubbed with salt, and flipped more frequently than a switch.
We’re not gonna front — it’s a labor of love that we were excited to taste. There are consistently a dozen cheese varieties in our fridge at any given time: Brie, Mozzarella, Cheddar, a Swiss type or two, Feta, Paneer, Ricotta, Parmigiano, Pecorino. This is a genuine list of what is in there right now. We live and die (and suffer occasional indigestion) by the curd.
However, we’re still not frontin’ — it’s a very expensive food to fill our fridge with. What you can buy in the supermarket is always imported, and price tends to match quality: Pay more, and you’ll probably get a nicer cheese. Yes, there is that brand of RM10 Feta, but it’s not nearly as nice as the RM30+ Australian organic one.
Mediocre Brie sells for over RM200/kg, and even if you shell out the big bucks, there is no guarantee that the Gorgonzola you just bought was stored properly. Open the packaging, and discover its yellowy-green run-off cheese sweat: Tears shed as you realize this once delicious substance has had to suffer the indignity of human negligence.
Can you blame the cheese? You try traveling from a tiny farm in Lombardy to the refrigerated section of a suburban Malaysian grocery store.
We’d nearly given up on finding a wheel that took a safer, shorter journey to our boards. But then enters Milky Whey, who get their milk from the farmer down the road, and whose carbon footprint is whatever walking up a flight of stairs equals.
The cost? Between RM13 – RM17. We bought nine cheeses, at give or take 100g, bought a couple full wheels and paid RM185 for all of it. Why hadn’t we thought of this sooner?
As much as we like to wax lyrical about our food endeavors, you’re here to see us separate the curds from the whey, so without further ado — here is the breakdown: A kaleidoscope of emotions, a board of plenty, and several manic, cheese-induced dreams.
We went all out and made a spread of this. You know we weren’t gonna do this in halves.
We’ve always appreciated the accoutrements that come with a well-laid board: Crisp sweetness from the grapes, a few nuts to nibble on for crunch, dried fruit of only the most jam-like consistency. We love a good slab of quince jam, but since we are very far from Lisbon, we opted for fudge-y, un-sulphured apricots, and moreish Spanish figs. Also some crackers. Water crackers.
We also had honey on stand-by, should a dried fruit not cut it.
Wonderful. Now let’s get to it, in no particular order, and in no particular preference.
Milky Whey has an overriding penchant to smoke a lot of the cheeses they make, and we’ve never really sat here nor there when it came to our preference: An occasional addition of smokey scamorza affumicata to a lasagna has long been our secret weapon.
Was this Gouda better off having sat in the presence of smoulder? Undecided.
We love a good, old Dutch Gouda. Its flakiness, how the salt crystals crunch between our teeth. In terms of curd flavor, this baby was very mild. Hard and waxy in a way that made you think that while it’s nice to nibble, it would be more than nice to put in a mac ‘n cheese, where greatness is measured in finding the right cheese blend to add character to otherwise pedestrian cheesy elbow pasta.
A Swiss-style cheese that is often made with what’s left after using all the butter and cream from the milk to make other cheeses, we had never really given Tomme much thought. It was a closed cheese, with a few scant holes throughout.
Mostly, the tightly packed curd made it creamy on the palate. It was nutty, with a surprising amount of body. There was something in the aftertaste that immediately made us think of the tannin in wine, but ultimately we can’t put our finger on it. Calling it bitter just seems wrong, because it was pleasant.
A day later we made a delightful sandwich consisting of roast chicken breast (olive oil, salt, pepper, pomegranate juice), caramelized onions, chipotle mayo, and a few slabs of Tomme. It was delicious. Good for boarding, good for melting: A good ‘un in our books.
Speaking of sandwiches, we need to get this out of the way before we go any further: Appenzeller (Zeller) cheese is another delightful Swiss-made wheel, brined in a herbal tincture, and allowed to develop from a fruity, mildly nutty taste to a down-right spicy aged version.
The variety at Milky Whey was less closed than we have previously been exposed to, the curds towards the center seemed to co-exist with small to medium holes the deeper we went. It tasted more mature than fruity, on the more toastier nut side, if you will. Absolutely delightful and one we kept going back to nibble on all week.
Plus, sandwiches: We also made a grilled cheese out of this, slathering Dijon mustard on a sliced country loaf, and frying it between a heavy lid, a pan, and a whole lot of butter.
SMOKED MUSHROOM BRIE
Hey, remember when we told you that we write honest reviews, and that not everything is great in this world? OK, well — here we go…
We are die-hard Brie lovers. Double cream. Triple cream. The kind that when wrapped in plastic pushes its insides to the outer limits of its protective cling-film. If our kind of Brie were a person, they would be the kind of hot mess that is constantly spilling out of a dress two sizes too small, and we would still think they were the cat’s pajamas.
This Brie was none of that. It was frigid. It was hard. It purported to have a sensuous inside layer of locally sourced (smoked!) mushrooms adding to its earthiness, but inside, all we found were shriveled vestiges of the fungi’s former self. Eating it was like getting out heart broken by the person we love, for the very first time.
Ultimately, what seemed to be lacking most was that unctuous center that we have come to love with the soft-rind cheese, that creamy moisture that makes it what it is. Where did it go? Please bring it back.
We’re just going to say it: This was a confusing cheese.
We lived in France for a fraction of our lives, and to the best of our gluttonous knowledge, Reblochone cheeses are creamy, soft-rinded babies. Kind of Brie-like in unctuousness (see above), but much more lactic, and much, much richer.
This was none of that. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t soft inside. There was no bloomy rind outside. It was very smokey. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t like any Reblochone that we’ve had. Take from that what you will. It went into an omelet and we weren’t mad about it.
Hi, reader! Still with us? We hope that at this point, there’s more pros than cons, and you’re already Waze-ing your way to Whey, because it is truly worth it.
When you get there and by-pass the Brie, make a bee-line for the Smoked Melaka, their very own house blend.
OK, yes, it’s also bloody smoked and we aren’t sure how much we can take in the hole, but hear us out. After that Roblechone, we’ve begun to wonder if throwing “smoked” is the Valencia filter of home cheese-making: Meant to obfuscate imperfections, and ultimately leave you with the impression of smoother, warmer edges.
In the Melaka, however, it’s not at all overpowering, and for once the technique truly foils the curds. Tightly packed with a few tiny blue veins, it looked more beautiful than a fresh manicure.
Our first bite left a wash of umami in our mouths, that turned into a burning bite of an aftertaste. Days after we finished our board, we kept tucking in to it. Slicing a wedge here and there, never subjecting it to the kind of heat that would kill its charm. When you go, make sure you get this, OK?
First things first: We are unashamed blue cheese lovers. We go out in the world looking for the furriest, moldiest, spiciest, blackest blues out there. Do they have salt crystals? Perfect. That’s just what we like. It’s been a life-long lover affair that had us turn our child nose up at pedestrian Fontinas in favor of a gamey blue.
This blue. This blue was impossible. Its rind seemed as though it had seen better days: Dried out, discolored, moldy, but not like … cave-moldy: Actual moldy.
We’re ones to never gibap (“give up” lol), so we pressed ahead in earnest, but we could never shake the single overriding flavor that this poor blue inflicted on our mouths: It tasted like socks.
Add some fig? Fig and sock.
Add some apricot? Fruity sock.
Add lashings of honey? Sweet sock.
Add it to spinach leaves and toasted nuts? Salad sock.
Blues deserve better, and we do not recommend this cheese unless it’s being used for a prank.
Alright, let’s lay it out: We don’t like goat, sheep, mutton, lamb — yes, even the really young, tender one. They taste like the animal smells. We avoid goat cheeses for that reason, for they too often also taste like the animal smells — decidedly ovine.
We’re happy to report that this cheese was none of those. Yes, it was a goat cheese and you could not run away from that, but this was not a bad thing. It was tangy. It was creamy. It was what we have been waiting for in the Brie and Reblochone, but never got. Better late than never, we say!
Later, we made a roasted beet salad, throwing together baby beets, spinach, spiced walnuts and wedges of this beautiful boule. Yes, the band is back together and the most overplayed salad of 2008 is having a reunion tour. Cop tickets, cop this cheese.
Is it fair to say that in a random order, we somehow saved the best for last? Serendipity, clearly.
This little wheel of Opal brought such joy to our snacking lives — a beautiful rind that hugged a melted, buttery edge that led to a thick and creamy interior. All of them different, yet working in harmony. She was just what we had been waiting for, and what we will buy time and time again.
Eat the Opal straight up, but maybe buy a second little wheel and see if that baby can bake? Christmas 2018, get ready.
Until next time, reader.
Milky Whey Cheese
Contact: +60 16-622 0361 for more information on when to go by
Open weekdays 10.30am to 5pm