Can vegetarians eat cheese ? The answer is ‘YES ‘ and ‘NO’.
NO, because most cheese contain animal based rennet. And it is also a ‘no,no,no’ for vegans. Then what is ‘rennet’ anyway?
Rennet is an extract from the tissue in the fourth stomach of young ruminants, such as cows, goats and sheep.It contains enzymes that causes the milk to coagulate and form curds. Curds are then pressed to form cheese. Nowadays, animal-based rennet are mostly manufactured. As one can see, this type of cheese is not suitable for vegetarians.
Nevertheless, it is a ‘ YES ‘ for lacto – vegetarians because there are cheese made from non-animal or microbial rennet. Better choice are homemade cheese such as panir, the Indian homemade cheese and cream cheese made from yogurt.
Please check the labels behind the packs of the cheese products bought from the supermarkets.
Shown below are two types of cheese useable by lacto- vegetarian.
Of course, there are different brands of vegan cheese made from tofu available in the organic shops too, so vegans can easily replace the ingredients used in this recipe to vegan friendly version. Well, raw vegans can just ignore this recipe altogether. Most Malaysian vegetarians are lacto-vegetarians and hence for the time being, we have to use cheese made from diary products without animal-based rennet.
Most people need a period of transition to change or progress to another level. Bear in mind that not many people can afford organic food. For ordinary people like us to be able to march out the first step to become a vegetarian is by itself a great achievement and let different individual paves his/her own way towards vegetarian at his/her own pace. Segregation among vegetarians is totally unacceptable. After all, most vegans begin as vegetarians.
Panir, the Indian homemade cheese
Homemade cheese like Indian panir can be made by adding 1/4 cup of lemon juice and half teaspoon of salt to 2 cups of boiling fresh milk. Turn off the fire and stir. Collect the curds formed in a bag and then press between two chopping boards by adding a stone mortar on top. Collect the panir the next day. Panir is great for cooking Palak Panir, creamed bayam with panir and cashew nuts.
Homemade cream cheese
Another homemade cream cheese made from yogurt is worth trying your hands on it because it is simple to prepare.
First make your own yogurt using yogurt maker or just buy the ready-made yogurt from the supermarkets. Pour the yogurt into a soya bean milk filter bag and strain the yogurt in a tall glass jar. Fix the bag in position using the lid and let the whey be drained overnight. What is left in the bag is homemade cream cheese.This cream cheese collected can be used in fruit and vegetable salad,just by adding honey to it.
Shown here is a recipe using this cream cheese for making no-bake cheese layered biscuits .
During Hari Raya or Chinese New Year festivals, there are a lot of these layered biscuits for sale in the local cake shops, together with the colourful layered cakes called Kek Lapis in Sarawak. Some are homemade for sale. A bar of this layered biscuits cake sells at RM 25. The biscuits used are super thin cheese biscuits. Since the contents of the cheese powder used for the biscuits are not clearly stated, it is therefore not suitable for vegetarians.
Non-bake cheese layered biscuits
- 750 g yogurt or 200 g cream cheese made from microbial rennet
- 1 1/2 cup fresh milk
- 1 cup condensed milk
- 2 packets square soda biscuits or any thin biscuits
- 30 g processed cheddar cheese ( optional)- to add salty taste to the cake.Do not add this if salty manufactured cream cheese is used.
- Almond flakes and coco powder (optional )
- Prepare the home-made cream cheese from the yogurt one day beforehand.
- Blend the cream cheese, condensed milk and fresh milk together.
- Line a 9″ x 9″ x 2 ” tray with aluminum or plastic sheet.
- Using a pair of tongs, dip the biscuit one by one into the mixture and arrange it layer by layer in the tray.
- Repeat the steps above until there is no mixture left.
- Keep in the fridge overnight.
- Turn the layered biscuits over on a chopping board.
Sprinkle almond flakes on top or dust with coco powder (optional).
Cut and serve in paper cups.
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