Born in Lebanon and spending most of her life in Canada after moving there in her teenage years, former yoga teacher Amy Elkhoury never imagined she would be starting a plant-based cheese brand in the bustling city of Hong Kong. But launch she did. Founded earlier this Spring but officially launching now, Nuteese is the latest vegan cheese company to land in the city, offering Hongkongers handcrafted, fermented and activated nut-based gourmet cheeses with no compromise on the addictive experience that its conventional counterparts bring to the table, from the famous rind that encases brie to the smoky and sharp charm of aged cheddar.
“I started my health journey as a yoga teacher, which led me to food and nutrition,” Elkhoury tells Green Queen. From studying the ins-and-outs of plant-based nutrition to training with raw plant-based teachers and mentors, during her time in Montreal, the Lebanese-Canadian former yoga teacher made a deliberate switch to veganism to practice a more ethical and environmentally-friendly lifestyle. But like many others, there’s one thing she missed: cheese.
“Everyone’s challenge in becoming vegan is letting go of cheese,” she explains. “I’m an animal lover and so my way of saving animals was to provide a delicious, gourmet alternative to dairy based cheese. It was my son Joe’s struggle to become fully vegan because of cheese, that pushed me to do it.”
I’m an animal lover and so my way of saving animals was to provide a delicious, gourmet alternative to dairy based cheese. It was my son Joe’s struggle to become fully vegan because of cheese, that pushed me to do it.
Extensively reading and experimenting with traditional and novel ways of cheesemaking, Elkhoury fully immersed herself into her new venture, travelling around the world from France to New York in her journey to create a brand that could “offer the very best” of vegan “cheeze”. When her husband was offered a job in Hong Kong, Elkhoury decided there and then to turn her idea into a reality in the city she now calls home.
“We make artisanal, cultured, aged plant-based cheeze from nuts, mainly from activated cashews. Our cheeze is aged in our Nuteese cellar with love and care for 20 days, carefully monitored for temperature and humidity. Every piece of Nuteese is handcrafted, free from artificial flavours or preservatives, and of course vegan.”
Among some of the gourmet vegan cheeses in her collection range from aged Hot N’ Smokey to festive delights such as the macadamia and cashew-based Coeur de figues and the Merry Cranberry aged cashew cheese with a cranberry port reduction or the delectable truffle-infused Truffle Hunter that is perfect topped on pastas or enjoyed with a cracker or two. There’s a vegan Middle Eastern labneh-style spread too.
Our cheeze is aged in our Nuteese cellar with love and care for 20 days, carefully monitored for temperature and humidity. Every piece of Nuteese is handcrafted, free from artificial flavours or preservatives, and of course vegan
Activating the nuts used in Nuteese’s cheeses helps to remove the phytic acid content, which enables better absorption of nutrients and digestion. Being fermented, Nuteese’s range of artisan vegan cheeses also give a boost to the beneficial bacteria and enzymes in our intestinal flora, which is important for a healthy gut and immune system, not to mention giving the taste and textures that consumers love about cheese.
“Fermentation and aging add complexity to the cheeze, intensifying and deepening the flavours,” Elkhoury tells Green Queen.
When asked about her favourite product she has created so far, the raw plant-based chef jokingly responds “it’s like asking me which child I love most”, before adding that it all depends on the day and mood, or even the season. Of course, ahead of the holidays, Elkhoury is a big fan of her special Christmas creations.
This is my way of being an animal activist and my contribution to the environment and healthy eating. My mission is to make a difference by providing people with the best products and alternatives to dairy.
While the cashews that Nuteese uses are imported from Vietnam, the majority of the ingredients in the collection are sourced locally whenever possible, in a true commitment to the sustainable farm-to-table approach that the brand celebrates.
“The tomatoes used for the Tuscan Sun are picked at the market and seasoned and dehydrated in our kitchen,” the self-proclaimed “Cheezanista” remarks. “This is my way of being an animal activist and my contribution to the environment and healthy eating. My mission is to make a difference by providing people with the best products and alternatives to dairy.”
Nuteese offers a range of locally aged cashew-based cheeses including Cam meets Brie (HK$ 170), Truffle Hunter, Tuscan Sun, Hot’n’Smokey and Somerset Noble (all HK$ 120). Order on their website.
All images courtesy of Nuteese.