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On this blog, I make my enthusiastic turophily known to the world. So it may be a surprise that I was willing to try an ersatz, non-dairy “cheese.” I may not be a vegan, but I do limit my cheese consumption (except when traveling) to products without animal rennet. And I’m always interested in new vegan options, even if the meat analogues to date have been more satisfying than the cheeses.

Chao original

One of my favorite meat analogue producers is Seattle-based Field Roast Grain Meat Co., which makes truly delectable vegan roasts. They recently came out with a line of “Chao” slices, so I decided to investigate. Admittedly the Chao Original sat in my fridge for a couple of weeks before I got up the enthusiasm to sample it. But it’s a tasty treat if you have a yen for something creamy and savory, with a bite like al dente pasta.

The slices are on the thick side with plenty of body. You can pull one from the package without tearing it. Clearly they’re designed to go straight into a sandwich (and they melt very well), but I’m one who likes naked cheese. I ate mine cold as a standalone snack and found the flavor pleasing. It’s mild, with an aroma of the coconut oil that is one of the main ingredients, but it also has a distinct hit of umami, without being as salty as a slice of classic “American” cheese. The savor comes from fermented tofu, the “Chao” adapted from Vietnamese cuisine. Other ingredients include potato starch, sea salt, “natural flavor,” olive extract and beta carotene.

Chao original2

This isn’t cheese. It’s good food, and it satisfies the same craving. I will buy it again, just for fun. And I’m interested in trying the other flavors, Coconut Herb with Black Pepper, and Tomato Cayenne with Spicy Pepper.

Postscript: The Tomato Cayenne is pretty to look at, but its flavor is disappointing. Plenty of hot pepper, but not enough umami or tomato. It would be OK in a sandwich if you want a touch of heat.