Dutchman Nick Pauli got chatting to his now business partner Dirk Jasper about Dutch cheese at a football game, where they were both cheering their sons on. Now they've launched speciality shops in Sai Kung and Sheung Wan to convince us to have a nibble. Pauli tells us why there is more to Dutch cheese than Edam.
Does everyone in the Netherlands eat cheese?
We grow up with it. We eat it mostly for breakfast. The Netherlands produces about 650,000 tonnes of cheese [a year]. About a quarter of that is eaten in the Netherlands. The rest is exported.
Last year a Dutch cheese won The World Champion Cheese Contest. It's still relatively unknown here. Why have we been missing out?
It is a very familiar product in Germany, France and Britain. The market is growing in Russia and a bit in the US. It seems the further one goes from Holland, the less Dutch cheese is seen.
The cheese in your shops is all Gouda. Can you describe it?
About 75 per cent to 80 per cent of children in Holland are introduced to young Gouda. It's a mild, milky cheese. As they grow up, they get used to older cheese. We sell a lot of extra-aged Gouda here. It is two years old and has quite a strong, powerful taste that people like.
How does it change as it ages?
During the ripening, all the water is lost. A young cheese is very different to an old one. The young one is much softer. The older is drier, with a lot more flavour. It has small white specks of protein.
Is there anything else we must know about Gouda?
When we were looking at renting spaces our broker was a Hong Kong lady. She didn't know too much about cheese, so the second time we saw her we took her some to taste. The next day, I asked her if she liked it. She said, "I really love the cheese, only I couldn't eat the rinds." We had forgotten to tell her to cut that off. If you don't know much about cheese, you wouldn't know that.
Do you have a lot of local clients?
I am surprised that we do have a lot of Chinese customers, especially on Hong Kong Island. We are lucky because the Chinese are very eager to know more and they are not afraid to try new things.
You've worked for a few food companies. Where did you start out?
I started in cigarettes! That was 35 years ago. Then I went into beer. And then into cheese. You could say I've been getting healthier over time.
Are your sons into cheese?
Not my youngest. He doesn't eat any. He doesn't like it. I've told him he'll have to learn.
Do you prefer to stay home or eat out?
I like all kinds of food. Dutch cuisine is not famous for its culinary flair. I am reliant on French and Italian. I like to eat in local Chinese restaurants.
What's your favourite meal?
Simple is best. Maybe shrimps or lobster with a salad and white wine.
Have you been on any food adventures here?
I still haven't made it to Tim Ho Wan in Mong Kok. Last time we tried to go, it was closed. We passed by 10 times and had to ask but it was closed. I am ready to try again.