Like many other Asian cuisines, Filipino food doesn’t have a lot of dairy. But over the last few decades, locals have developed a taste for Western dishes – especially those with lots of ooey-gooey cheese. It started with a love of the boxed variety, which home cooks grate over sweet spaghetti and use as lumpia filling. The fondness has since evolved to finer options, as evidenced by cheese boards at Sunday brunches, parties, and wedding receptions.
While these trendy grazing platters are traditionally European, you can always ground yours in local food culture. Yes, you can add classic kesong puti to the lineup, but be aware more options are available. Here are some cheese board ideas to banner Pinoy flavors.
How to Build Your Cheese Board
1. Start with the vessel.
Learning how to prepare a cheese board starts with choosing your vessel. From here, you can decide how many components to add. Large wooden trays, cutting boards, and ceramic serving platters are popular options. For a rustic Filipino flair, you can opt to use banana leaves instead. They can work as lining for your board or table.
Use ramekins and other small vessels for dips, pickles, and various add-ons with a runny consistency to keep each element neatly separated.
2. Shop local cheeses.
For a proper Filipino cheese party, source from local dairy farmers and suppliers. Luckily, you’re spoiled for choice with all the homegrown cheesemakers that have established themselves over the years. Here area few names to check out:
- Malagos Farmhouse is a Davao-based brand that’s big on using pure goat milk. They have chèvre and ricotta, both mild in flavor and crowd favorites. They also have feta that pairs well with fruit. For an extra pungent addition, try their signature Davao blue cheese, a nutty and earthy delight aged for at least 30 days.
- Casa del Formaggio is the brand to beat for Italian-style cheeses made in the Philippines. They offer an assortment of caciotta, a traditional farmhouse cheese that can be buttery or sharp depending on age. There’s also the peperoncino, blended with chili flakes for a spicy kick. If you’re looking for an ultra-creamy variety that doubles as a spread or dip, try the stracchino.
- DVF Dairy Farm takes pride in sourcing their milk from native carabaos. Their catalog includes fresh mozzarella and traditional Spanish-American queso blanco(white cheese). Each boasts a firm yet soft texture perfect for bread and salads.
- Pinkie’s Farm may be known for flavored milk and yogurt, but they also offer smoked cheese and infused butter. If you enjoy soft, melty cheeses, give their smoked mozzarella and scamorza a try. Their lemon and roasted garlic butter also deserves a place on your board.
If your board is part of a holiday spread, then complete it with queso de bola. Most Pinoys will cut theirs into thick triangles and enjoy it with warm pandesal. Want to change it up while still staying true to tradition? Try making a cheese pimiento dip!You only need four ingredients: grated cheese, canned red pimientos, Lady’s Choice Real Mayonnaise, and sugar.
3. Add sweet, briny, and other savory elements.
Sweet treats like fresh and dried fruits, jams, and dark chocolate will bring balance to your board. Make sure to include dried mangoes, guava jelly, and caramelized pili nuts. For something salty, add briny sides like cornichon, pitted green olives, and pickled green mangoes to cut through all the richness.
You can also add charcuterie but go for those that complement your cheeses. Sweet ham is made for queso de bola, while prosciutto and chorizo work with mild, soft cheeses.
4. Offer a variety of textures.
Depending on the cheeses you select, you should have creamy and crumbly covered. Now it’s time to add crunch. Make homemade crostini with stale pandesal, toasted until golden brown and crispy. Saltine crackers, salted pretzels, and breadsticks will also work. For something more unique, try the lettuce chips from Tagaytay-based Gourmet Farms.
5. Garnish and prepare serving ware.
Adding a few garnishes to your cheese platter will take it to the next level. Use a mix of fresh and dried herbs, edible flowers, and local fruits or berries for visual interest. Make sure to prepare cheese knives, spreaders, and serving spoons.
Make this cheese board for your next brunch, cocktail party, or potluck, and show your loved ones the wonders of Filipino cheeses. They’ll be raving about your homemade grazing spread for weeks!