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David Hartung / Dali / China

Photographer David Hartung captured this image of a Bai aboriginal woman making Yunnanese cheese in Dali.

Published on Aug 15, 2017

A Bai aboriginal woman warms cow’s milk in a wok to make a local cheese called rushan, which she rolls and places on bamboo poles in her basic village kitchen to dry. Today, the aboriginal group numbers less than two million and is found mostly living in mountain villages around Dali in Yunnan. The Bai diet still revolves around sharp, cold and spicy flavors, with dishes like cured ham, local fish and corn often served. This traditional craft of cheese making is dying off, though can be found occasionally in remote corners of the province. The mozzarella-like cheese is mixed with vinegar or sour milk so it will curdle and then dried for 24 hours. While it can be eaten raw, it is usually deep-fried and cut into smaller chunks. Not all traditions are lost to the modern world, with the Bai tea ceremony, san dao cha or three-course tea, still a common sight at festivals and weddings. Rushan continues to be made as a key ingredient of this tea ceremony.


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