Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Meiji "Smart" Cheese
I'm going to have to confess something. I have never considered how intelligent my cheese is, nor have I ever considered that my cheese purchasing decisions reflected on my intelligence. I'm not sure what makes this cheese either have a high I.Q. or show that the buyer is smarter than the average mouse.
It turns out that this processed cheese is "smart" because it has been specially formulated for the Japanese market. It is enhanced with various ingredients to make it more savory ("umami") and texturally more satisfying for Japanese palates. Eating this is supposed to bring to mind traditional Japanese flavors like miso, bonito, and seaweed as well as have a taste which is akin to fermented foods in Japanese cuisine. It's also formulated to be soft and reminiscent of eating rice in terms of texture.
I found this cheese at Peacock supermarket in my neighborhood. It was on sale for 198 yen ($2.35) for a 120-gram (4.23 oz.) box. There are twelve 10 gram (.35 oz.) squares and each is 36 calories. This makes them pretty much similar to average cheese in terms of calories. The box states that this is made with 60% "natural cheese", but the types are not specified, though an "emulsifier" is mentioned as the other ingredient.
The taste of this cheese is definitely deeper and more savory. It has a much sharper edge and is more pungent than regular processed cheese in Japan. The flavor brings to mind matured cheddar and Parmesan in its intensity. It is definitely a very savory, tasty bit of processed cheese. The texture is quite soft, but still firm. It's easy to unwrap with a tab on the little foil packet.
Though I love real cheese and wouldn't want to replace it with any sort of processed cheese, this is incredibly flavorful and an excellent snack to keep on hand for a more nutritious boost. Each serving has 67 mg. of Calcium and 2.2 grams of protein with which to recommend itself. The only "down" side is that the retail price is 340 yen ($4.03), and I don't think that it would be worth it at that price. If you like strong, salty cheese and favor things like matured cheddar, I definitely recommend buying this and keeping it in the refrigerator at home or at work as a quick snack.