Wait, they eat cheesecake in Japan?

I didn’t know they even ate cheese there! But in fact they do. Despite what we here in the West hear about Asian disdain for beef and dairy, the fact is that both are now quite common in the Far Eastern regions of the globe. In fact Japan has become famous for besting the French at their own game, producing some of the finest brioche and laminated pastry in the world. Quite a reversal from the old days of barbarian invasions and butter stinkers, wouldn’t you say?

But when did the Japanese start eating cheesecake…or cheese for that matter? Though there’ve been cows in Japan for hundreds of years, cheese itself only became popular a few decades ago. Cream cheese was among the first cheeses to gain acceptance in Japan, primarily because of its mild taste and smell. Manufacturers from the US and New Zealand began marketing cream cheese there around 1980, and it wasn’t long before enterprising chefs started baking with it, creating chiizukeiki‘s that bore more than a passing resemblance to tofu. Indeed it’s said that a big reason cheesecake took off in Japan is because it incorporated well into Japanese food aesthetics: it could be cut into neat shapes and colored in cool, pastel shades.

In the 1980’s cheesecakes started appearing in coffee shops frequented by young, professional women (the sweet-eaters of Japanese society), and soon became a full-blown fad. Recipes started appearing in Japanese fashion magazines, and by the mid-80’s chiizukeiki was everywhere. Nowadays cheesecake is a fixture of contemporary Japanese cuisine, and while it may not be quite as popular as, oh, ramen noodles are here, it’s safe to say it’s firmly embedded in the culture.

5 thoughts on “Wait, they eat cheesecake in Japan?”

  1. I ate a lot of cheesecake when I was in Japan and it was really good! I prefer it to the heavy ones, and in fact just found some salted cherry blossoms to flavour it (can’t find sakura extract anywhere). Have fun with it!

      1. Yes, I just soak them in a couple of changes of cold water then put them in hot cream to make a panna cotta and it was delicious. I look forward to experimenting with it a bit more. Can’t wait to make this cheesecake, but it’ll have to wait until October when I am home. Oh, and I have a great cheesecake store picture for you, but can’t find it. Will sign off before this gets creepily long.

  2. The Koreans are pretty good too. One of the best croissant I’ve ever had was from a Korean bakery here in Los Angeles. And of course all the Chinese bakeries have various puff-pastry shelled items, though usually not very good.
    Given its French history, it would be surprising if Viet Nam didn’t get in here somewhere too.I heard a story years ago about a guard at the US Embassy in Saigon who was stationed by the pastry chef’s. One day the chef couldn’t make it in and the guard went right to work doing everything he’d been carefully watching the chef do that whole time.
    And baguette (sometimes I believe made with rice flour) is of course standard in Viet Nam as well.

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