While vegan cheese isn’t always necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when considering the specialty foods of Ho Chi Minh City, Kashew Cheese is aiming to change that. The artisan-made, plant-based cheese is produced in Ho Chi Minh City and has a new storefront in Thao Dien. Kashew Cheese uses traditional cheese-making methods, like aging and fermentation, all-the-while keeping true to its mission of sustainability and availability to everyone.
Kashew Cheese’s founder and head of operations, Dau Thi Le Na, found her way to vegan cheesemaking after a personal journey with the goal of discovering just where her food came from. After a long period of research and the desire to take on a new project—”something totally new”—she found herself making vegan cashew cheese. Not only plant-based, Kashew Cheese sources from Vietnam and is especially conscious of their carbon footprint, with plastic-free (and beautifully-designed) packaging.
“At first”, Lena recounts of the production, “I was ordering small quantities of cashews—just a few kilos at a time—from Lộc Ninh, Bình Phước Province, where the cashews are grown by Stieng and Khmer ethnic peoples. I was lucky to develop a relationship with these cashew producers, and began experimenting with making the cheese at home in the beginning”.
Developing Kashew Cheese required learning on the job and a dedicated process of trial-and-error, often requiring some explanation of the strange objects and strong smells in the kitchen to housemates. Over time, however, the process grew more and more refined, leading to today: a roster of delicious vegan cheeses, from smoked hickory to tumeric cumin to spicy chili as well as house-made ricotta and cream cheese.
“When I was first giving out samples and showcasing it at festivals and pot-luck events, I would offer Kashew Cheese to strangers rather than to family and friends. Many of the people who tried it weren’t even vegan themselves, but I could see their positive reactions and got strong feedback. That was incredibly encouraging when I was just getting things started”.
These early experiences served as more than just a way to test a product, but as a means to share a moment with people. Food, as Lena notes, is about bringing people together and breaking down barriers.
Enjoyed on its own with a fresh baguette, in a sandwich or pizza, or baked into a cheesecake, Kashew Cheese’s uses are many.
Try it yourself in their Thao Dien shop or visit their Facebook page for more information.
Kashew Cheese: 14 Trần Ngọc Diện, Thảo Điền, Quận 2. HCMC