06 Dec2010

This post on queso de bola was first published on 18 December 2005, but I am re-posting it here for the benefit of folks who haven’t previously come across it, and who are about to purchase their QdB in the weeks ahead…

How did a dry, salty and sharp Dutch cheese originally from the city of Edam, balls1shaped like a ball and coated in red paraffin become standard fare at Christmas gatherings in this far off Catholic country controlled by the Spaniards??? I really don’t know. Some superficial rooting around the internet yielded the basics of the cheese’s origin, the fact that it was hardy and often shipped to distant locales such as Dutch controlled Batavia or Jakarta, Indonesia, and that it got saltier and drier with age. Very close to another well-known cheese named Gouda, Edam has a lower fat and moisture content and unique shape which apparently worked better on long voyages at sea. The balls were sometimes used as cannonballs in the Caribbean (and they don’t only come wrapped in red wax but also black and yellow)! Others also cite a story that Edam got salty since they were used as ballast on ships and were sloshing about in sea water. In the late 1600’s and early 1700’s the Dutch were probably sending lots of Edam to Indonesia, but how they made their way to the Philippines is a mystery to me…

At any rate, history aside, Edam transformed to the more hoity toity “Queso de Bola,” and somehow won a place in the hearts, stomachs and Noche Buena tables that were laden not only with local delicacies but more likely, highly difficult to obtain imported goodies such as grapes, hams, chocolates, etc. balls2Frankly, I never understood the love affair as I always found QdB to be a bit smelly, a bit off, incredibly dry and way too salty. Why I find the same attributes in Parmigiano Reggiano to be appealing is bizarre, I know. But since QdB was one of the most mentioned items in my survey of Christmas goodies, I decided to attempt a more than superficial review. I bought four different QdB’s in the groceries and tried two more from specialty food shops and this post will outline my personal opinions on the cheeses sampled. You do not have to agree with me, but these are my comments. On the six different cheeses (wedges or slices in the photo here are as follows): lower right hand corner is an aged Edam, a fresh Edam, a Marca Pato QdB, a Marca Pina QdB, a Magnolia QdB, and finally, a Margnolia Gold (going clockwise). I just recently saw a Che-Vital QdB but didn’t bother to try that one as the thought of Che-Vital making good cheese is difficult to conjure up…

Let me start from worst to best of those sampled… balls4The Magnolia QdB was saltier than its sister Gold Brand and appeared less creamy or soft. It possessed a very yellow orange tinge and appeared to be the least natural of all cheeses sampled. Why bother to buy QdB, you might do as well to buy their processed cheese food which is only partially cheese and gosh knows what else. That’s the key perhaps, this is a composite cheese…yikes! The Magnolia Gold brand was strangely soft and malleable as though fresh cheese, which we know it isn’t as the packaging clearly states “processed cheese food.” I have visions of big vats of cheez whiz being formed into cannon ball shapes and coated with wax… The gold brand had no expiry date (what?!) and seemed to be a drier version of their boxed cheese foods. Though it seemed creamier than the QdB brand, this may just mean it has a higher water content and is therefore wetter. The Magnolia QdB cost PHP299.25 per KILO and the Magnolia Gold was PHP332.25 per kilo. I suspect this or its cheaper relations are what most commercial bakers put atop their ensaimadas. I don’t think I would ever voluntarily purchase these cheeses again. After tasting these I promptly grated the rest and made cheese pimiento spreads. If this were the gong show, both of these cheeses got the GONG a few minutes ago.

The Marca Pato Brand is often mentioned in the same breath as the Marca Pina. balls5This is a salty QdB as well but not as salty as the Marca Pina that I tried. It is also more crumbly than the processed cheese foods. Take a good look at the wedges above to see the difference in texture. The color is also paler and I hope, more natural. Like the Marca Pina, this cheese is actually made in Holland and imported during the holidays. It had more of a buttery after taste and some folks prefer this to the more salty Marca Pina. At PHP 487 a kilo, it is roughly 50% more than Magnolia but the difference is worth it, in my opinion.

The Marca Pina brand of QdB brought back memories of childhood attempts to balls 3 have some of this Christmas favorite… it was dryer than most and crumbly as well. By my taste buds, it was the saltiest cheese sampled and it had that “QdB” taste as it has been burned into my memory banks from long, long ago. It had more complex and nuttier flavor than the cheese food versions and a strong aroma and classic indentation on one side of the ball. Made in Holland, this cheese is imported into the Philippines under the Marca Pina brand. Apparently, it is now intentionally made saltier by Dutch manufacturers to meet Philippines taste bud expectations. At PHP571 a kilo, it was the priciest of the “local brands” but still far less than imported Edam. This QdB had an expiry date and I imagine if it aged any longer you could use it as a replacement for salt in some dishes…

Out of curiosity, I went out and purchased some good fresher Edam at one of the balls6chi-chi specialty food stores… the Hollandia Edam was a whopping PHP1,200 a kilo (less than the aged version at PHP1,615 a kilo; not worry, I only bought 100 grams)! This was the youngest of all the cheeses I tried…as close to fresh as I suppose it can get in Manila… the cheese was softer, more elastic with a mild flavor. Not a cloying saltiness but saltier than most cheeses I have tried. I can see that our QdB evolved from this… I also aged a large chunk of store-bought Edam for about 10 weeks in the fridge and it was still elastic and relatively smooth but saltier than the fresh…as the cheese gets older, its flavor gets more pronounced.

The bottom line? If you are looking for the “traditional” Filipino QdB, my vote would have to go to the Marca Pina or Pato; which I would say rate about the same, though the Pato is cheaper. I can have either of these in only small doses and I found they were otherwise useful on ensaimadas…my theory is that everyone buys them out of reflex and they don’t actually eat all of it and so it MUST end up on ensaimadas, in cheese pimiento spread, etc. I personally preferred the fresher or even aged Edam, though more expensive and unlike the expected harder, saltier QdB. The excessive saltiness of the QdB must be balanced by the excessive sweetness of the hams at the same Noche Buena spreads… But now with air freight, rather than making do with QdB, give me a triple cream cheese like a Pierre Robert anyday… Substitute uses for an unwanted QdB… replacement duckpin bowling ball, shotput, deadly weapon, ball and chain for incarcerated person, etc. I jest. It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas…



  1. Ging says:

    And in 2010 they now cost over P800 (Rustan’s Cebu Ayala price)! Wow!

    Dec 5, 2010 | 4:56 pm


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  3. Raymond says:

    Hey Marketman! What are other ways to serve and consume QDB other than topping for ensaymada and the pimiento spread?

    Dec 6, 2010 | 10:27 am

  4. Jose says:

    “but how they made their way to the Philippines is a mystery to me…” – maybe the Dutch brought it here with them during their short time occupying the Philippines.

    Dec 6, 2010 | 10:32 am

  5. Meg says:

    Hi MM, prices of the cheeses that you mentioned above are certainly not what they cost nowadays. Maybe you can put in parentheses the old price and update the prices quoted for a more current “re-posting”, it’s just a suggestion :)

    Dec 6, 2010 | 10:43 am

  6. Lex says:

    Raymond, try making them into queso de bola crisps, grate them and sprinkle them over a non-stick pan or baked on silpat mats until melted. They make great snacks and salad toppings. Also try mixing them with tons of butter, made into a spread and toasting them on bread. This is what bottled Tita Moning’s cheese spread is all about. They are pretty good substitutes for Parmigiano in Pasta. Happy eating ;-)

    Dec 6, 2010 | 10:50 am

  7. Marivic says:

    We make our QdB crisps by microwaving slices in a microwave. One minute and a little time to cool and it’s done! A fat-less way to eat the QdBs we get at Christmas, which would be a shame to do on other prized cheeses.

    Dec 6, 2010 | 11:44 am

  8. Clarissa says:

    my mom has been forever looking for the best queso de bola there is. she always mentions marca rooster (as opposed to pato?) but I have never been able to find it or even a trace of it. now, we just opt for other cheeses besides the classics queso de bola. at least for those, you know what you already like :)

    Dec 6, 2010 | 11:56 am

  9. Mimi says:

    Raymond: I use QdB with Menudo, mechado, kaldereta, embotido and spaghetti, masarap siya with tomato sauce based foods. When you use QdB in cooking you need to stop yourself from adding salt any further kasi salty nga…

    Dec 6, 2010 | 12:11 pm

  10. fried-neurons says:

    Try mimolette from France :)

    Dec 6, 2010 | 12:50 pm

  11. kasseopeia says:

    Ah, QdB… Something 20+ years of Christmas Eves has burned into my memory banks. And for 20+ years, I could not find the pleasure in consuming it as it is. Picking up a thin wedge, peeling off the red wax like the skin off a mango (I would have preferred that) and biting down on the crumbly, salty, and smelly thing. Ugh!

    I can, however, stomach it in: an omelet, cooked into spaghetti sauce like Mimi does – I assume she was referring to a tomato-based sauce, grated on top of pasta with a lemon-egg yolk-olive oil dressing (replacing Parmesan, I guess), baked in a “cheese cookie” or a cheese cake (not too much, tho), blitzed up and added to a bubbling cheese fondue pot, or – like MM – grated and made into a myriad other spreads aside from pimiento (sun-dried tomato + olive + QdB was a big hit at last year’s Feast of the Leftovers buffet aka Dec 26 lunch/dinner) then slathered on all manner of baked and toasted starch (whole wheat toast points and toasted pita chips are stand-bys).

    I may be able to dig out more recipes/ways to have QdB but right now, I am gazing with trepidation at the two QdB’s that come with the company Christmas basket. Unfortunately, both are of the “processed cheese product” ilk. Ho, ho, ho indeed!

    Dec 6, 2010 | 6:52 pm

  12. Connie C says:

    Just checking in MM and to call attention to a minor typo:
    “Others also “site” (cite instead) a story that Edam got salty since they were used as ballast on ships and were sloshing about in sea water”

    and, the corrector in me can’t let this pass:

    ” I don’t think I would ever voluntarily purchase(d) these cheeses again”.

    Good’day, MM. Enjoyed the post as I love Edam with pan de sal, but substituting aged gouda, seems easier to cut tho with more fat content.

    Dec 6, 2010 | 8:07 pm

  13. Tonito says:

    Battle of the Balls…Ouch!!!

    Dec 6, 2010 | 8:51 pm

  14. Marketman says:

    Connie, thanks.

    Dec 6, 2010 | 9:13 pm

  15. chreylle says:

    elo MM! as the Christmas approach, i see to it that diff. type of cheese will be part of r noche buena (unlike before, only QDB) , id bought 4 kinds na agad, and it bcoz u influence me a lot :)

    Dec 6, 2010 | 9:51 pm

  16. kapeadik says:

    Raymond, just slice them up and pop into the microwave. Melt it enough that it becomes a thin film. Let it cool, peel off then serve in front of a beer drinking crowd :)

    Dec 6, 2010 | 11:11 pm

  17. Catherine says:

    Thanks for this review…quite informative!!! I prefer aged cheese, as they are more flavorful though the aroma can be a tad overwhelming for some.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 12:10 am

  18. EbbaBlue says:

    For nostalgic reason, last year I grabbed the last of the QDB in a Pinoy store here in Houston. I was so surprised by the price – $18.00 for the whole thing!! I was so shy to return as people were lining up to pick-up their ördered” dishes for the night (Dec. 23). This year, I tried to find the equivalent of our QDB and had tasted sample cheezes from a gourmet groceries, but was unsucessful. Any suggestions? I don’t want to spend that much again for this cheeze, I think I’ll just wait till I get there next year.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 12:43 am

  19. Dennis says:

    They’re great with beer too.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 1:51 am

  20. Zoi says:

    How about using it as a bibingka topping, instead of adding salted eggs?

    Dec 7, 2010 | 3:19 am

  21. EJ says:

    How timely this post is. I’m actually going to Edam this Sunday for a pre-Christmas dinner with friends. MM, the Filipino preference seems to be for aged Edam cheese, at least a year old, which is more expensive than the fresh varieties. The prices you quote, except the Hollandia, are much lower than those here in the Netherlands. Maybe because they refer to industrially produced cheeses? The Marca Pina, for example, is made by Frico, one of the largest cheese manufacturers here, and, as it says in the label, is in Wolvega (in Friesland), not Edam. Should you find yourself in this part of the world, do let me know and I can accompany you to charming and picturesque Edam.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 5:36 am

  22. Connie C says:

    Ebbablue: Try extra aged gouda Rembrandt brand, 8.99 a pound at our local Costco. I find it closest but not as salty as the Edam. Not sure whether it actually comes from Holland but the label claims an award winning Dutch masterpiece. Don’t know how it compares pricewise pound for pound with Edam that they sell in most Pinoy or Asian grocery stores.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 6:59 am

  23. ge says:

    I love the taste of queso de bola, particularly the marca pina brand and since no one in our household enjoys it as much as i do, I pretty much consume the whole ball all by myself. Yikes!

    Dec 7, 2010 | 7:53 am

  24. enna jensen says:

    Hi mm, abot nako sa cebu from norway a few days ago pa. I have also been to zubuchon in btc
    and back this friday to btc again to get my lechon. talking about cheese i have with me the pride of norway, GOAT*S CHEESE OR BRUN OST. Use it as palaman or the best use for it is for gravy or sauce for your steaks etc.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 10:37 am

  25. EbbaBlue says:

    Thanks Connie, the $18.00 I mentioned was for the whole Marca Pina brand. It was only me who ate it, and so it reach until March of the next year. My hubby reminded me that he bought me an Ëdam” cheeze from a Wholefoods Store (for $8.00/lb) and he said that I liked it. Well, I can’t remember it that much other than it was still much cheaper than the QDB.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 11:13 am

  26. Grace says:

    Never fond of these QdeB cheeses but as Filipino tradition my hubby keeps buying them for ceremonial purposes only. After New Year’s eve, I’m giving them away to friends who loves eating them.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 12:35 pm

  27. ECJ says:

    Dubliner, made by Kerrygold of Ireland reminds me of queso de bola…

    Dec 7, 2010 | 1:38 pm

  28. millet says:

    this is such a funny post, MM! I had to read it thrice because I kept stumbling over your one-liners and ending up giggling!

    Dec 7, 2010 | 4:07 pm

  29. millet says:

    and that is why to most Pinoys, most foreign cheeses are “matabang” because the bar is set at Marca Pina. my kids love to grate QdB over a hot skillet, or to microwave it a bit, so that it develops a slight crust.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 4:14 pm

  30. ntgerald says:

    At S&R Aseana this afternoon, the queso de bola stacks had prices for Marca Pato, at Php 400 ++ and Marca Pina at Php 800++.

    The Marca Pato brand is all gone, it’s all Marca Pina left.

    I think a reader of this blog bought all of the Marca Pato queso de bola.

    Dec 7, 2010 | 10:29 pm

  31. tonceq says:

    haven’t really developed a taste for these “balls”, i remember trying one of these as a youngster(out of the wax covering and into the o’le hatch) and i think it tasted bland? might reconcile with these just to see if my now more mature tastebuds will appreciate them! i heard that putting these on toast is a winner! :)

    Dec 8, 2010 | 1:20 am

  32. Rain says:

    In 1646 after the great Dutch Armada composed of 18 ships sent from protestant Batavia, Indonesia to attack and conquer Catholic Spanish Manila lost to the “Encarnacion and the Rosario”….The dutch sent a galleon of “Queso De Bola ” among the reparations…thus during Christmas and The La Naval…we celebrate and eat Queso de Bola :P

    Dec 9, 2010 | 4:13 am

  33. ontogeny says:

    I love queso de bola! Well, I love many kinds of cheeses but I’ve been programmed to favor it during the christmas season. I’m the weird one in my family because I actually like the part near the skin, the slightly gummy areas. I last bought Pato a couple of years ago in the grocery of Landmark, surprised that it was available because I normally just see Piña. For some reason, I didn’t like it. I’ve stuck to Piña ever since. Lazy me, I nuke it in the microwave on a piece of bread (particularly good with a raisin loaf) until it bubbles, sarap! My pop likes a few slices with the dreaded fruit cake, a nice counter to the often too sweet christmas treat (me too, okay, there are two oddballs in my family). If my pockets are flush, I grate some over beef caldereta. I love local stuff but sadly, queso de bola is not something we can do well. The local brands may have the right shape, right packaging, but they taste wrong.

    Dec 9, 2010 | 9:21 pm

  34. Tony Lee says:

    I just go to Santi’s and buy about 200gms of Dutch Edam. It’s always amongst the goodies weighing down our Noche Buena dinner table but every year I am the only one who eats any of it. Humbug as Scrooge said.

    Stay away from the Aussie Edam. In my opinion it is dry and tasteless.

    Dec 10, 2010 | 1:16 pm

  35. Marketman says:

    Rain, that is WAY COOL. Thanks for that bit of knowledge… :)

    Dec 10, 2010 | 8:09 pm

  36. Ana says:

    MM, I found this blog entry on QdB: http://lactography.blogspot.com/2009/11/cheese-of-week-queso-de-bola-de.html

    From the article it seems, the Edam recipe had a play in QdB recipe of Mexicans. Maybe we got it via that route from being administered from Mexico?

    Or from this article http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/lifestyle/lifestyle/view/20090902-223260/Our-one-of-a-kind-queso-de-bola ….it seems an enterprising Swiss immigrant brought to our shores

    Dec 12, 2010 | 9:27 am


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