Fresh Mozzarella, Made In Malaysia

IN MALAYSIA… Friendly Farms owner Norzana Ghazali, 25, (right), her
husband Michael Bruschi, 53 (second, right) and their staffs showing
the mozzarella they made for the day when met here recently. The
mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffalo and is the top pick
of five-star hotels in Langkawi as well as expatriates on the island.
Friendly Farms, that opened four months ago, also sell halal and
organic buffalo meat.Pic: Sakina Mohamed
By Sakina Mohamed

LANGKAWI, Dec 26 (Bernama) — Say mozzarella, and what comes to
mind is a delicious-tasting stringy cheese that originates from Italy.
Or at least, from Australia, where most of our imported dairy comes

Most of us pay a high price to enjoy this popular cheese that sustain
most pizza-selling businesses in the country, understanding that it is
only available imported.

Until now, that is.

Fresh handmade mozzarella is being produced in our country as we speak, in a mini shop in Langkawi.

Not only is it produced from the milk of water buffaloes, it is also
handmade, the two hallmarks of delicious and authentic mozzarella.

But not many know of the existence of the shop on Friendly Farms, as
since it opened some four months ago only sold halal and organic meat.
The mozzarella business only started about three weeks ago.

The owner is Norzana Ghazali, a 25-year-old businesswoman married to
Michael Bruschi, an Italian businessman who has experience in the world
of cheese-making.

Norzana, or Yana as she likes to be called, told Bernama that many were
skeptical when she revealed of her plans to start a business making

“Many didn’t think it was possible, if not, somebody would have done it a long time ago.

“But as you can see, it’s happened, we have succeeded in producing
handmade mozzarella and we’re sold out everyday, so it is possible”,
she said.


“This all came about when Yana told me of her dream to own a farm”, said Bruschi, 53.

After buying a place for the farm, they started thinking about potential businesses.

He said, mozzarella-making was only experimental at first, but months of failing only served to fuel their desire to try harder.

He echoed her in saying that it was not only possible to produce
mozzarella in Malaysia, but also to produce those that are much better
than those even from Italy.

How can he get back his claim?

“Taste it”, he said simply.

And of course, the best people to respond to the taste challenge were
top chefs who have tasted the real thing and were able to tell the

In this case, the seasoned chefs in question were from top hotels in
Langkawi such as the Four Seasons and the Datai. They had been using
imported handmade mozzarella but raved about Friendly Farms’ mozzarella
after tasting it.

“They simply could not believe it, that it was possible to produce such
good mozzarella from the milk of our own buffaloes, and since then the
demand has been almost non-stop”, he said.

Former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed was among those who had
tasted their fresh mozzarella and have attested to its deliciousness in
his blog,

Bernama was given a sample of the mozzarella, which was indeed delicious and unlike those in the market.

Bruschi explained that those in the market were not mozzarella, but fior di latte, which was made from cow’s milk.

They are more affordable to consumers and cheaper to produce and widely used in the food industry, especially in pizza parlours.


“What’s so difficult about making halal cheese?”, Bruschi asks.

He said, the mozzarella made on Friendly Farms use vegetable rennet to help with the coagulation of milk.

However, Bruschi said vegetable rennet was quite sensitive to work
with, so that was why many cheese-makers preferred to use calf rennet,
which is obtained from the inner lining of the calf’s fourth stomach.

If the calf was not slaughtered according to Islamic rites, than the
rennet would not be halal, thus making the mozzarella non-halal.

So next month, a Department of Islamic Development Malaysia
(JAKIM)-licensed slaughterer would be called over to the farm to
slaughter a calf so that rennet can be extracted.

Friendly Farms keeps several cows and calves including two from the
French Limousine breed. The name comes from the French Limousin region,
where the cow meat produced is called “viande Limousine” (Limousine
meat) and is acknowledged in France as being a second to none in
quality meat.

Selling quality meat that are professionally cut and packed is the other business at Friendly Farms.

“If you’re from the U.S., and you want the Texas cut, we can do it for
you. You’re French, you want the gourmet cut? We can do it for you
too”, says Bruschi.

Friendly Farms also makes fresh sausages, Italian beef burger patties, sliced meat and other beef specialties.

The cows are mostly of local breed, fed on organic feed and slaughtered by two Jakim-appointed slaughterers.


Bruschi says hotels make up the bulk of the orders, but the chefs and
their diners alike have a hard time believing the meat are from the
local cows.

“Malaysian meat has the best flavour, better than those from Australia
and New Zealand. You just have to know how to cut it. Do it right and
you’ll get optimum tenderness.”

The man that deserves the credit for the tender and professionally cut
meat is Ismail Morad, a hard-working 27-year-old from Langkawi.

Bruschi sent him on an intensive two-month training stint in San Marino
to learn everything about professional butchery, from the care of the
livestock, the proper diet for cows so that the meat would be tender
and flavourful, to the right way to cut and handle the meat.

To ensure the meat ends up fresh and tender, even the slaughtering of
the cows are done in a different environment uncommon to the industry.

Ismail said a special room is prepared for the cows to stay in before
it is slaughtered. It is air-conditioned and there are paintings of
“bushes” on the wall and “clouds” on the ceiling.

Prior to being slaughtered, the cow would be placed in the room with enough hay on the floor to eat and keep it comfortable.

“When the cow is nervous or tensed, this can affect the quality of the meat”, Ismail explained.


The shop is tucked so far inside Kampung Nyior Cabang, with the road
leading to the shop so narrow that only one car can pass through at a
time. At one point,one even had to drive across an “irrigation channel”
to get to the location.

So it was amazing to find tourists from foreign countries finding their
way through the maze to get to the shop almost on a daily basis, simply
for the mozzarella and the professionally cut meat.

Aside from hotels, Friendly Farms mozzarella is also at the top of the
shopping list for the expatriates living in Langkawi, including those
who live on the million-dollar yachts docked at Telaga Harbour.

Yana said since they first succeeded in making the cheese, the orders have not stopped pouring in.

“We’re not even producing consistent amounts because of the erratic milk supply,” she said.

The fresh handmade mozzarella are selling quite below the market price
at RM120 a kilogram, and are selling an average of 10 kilograms a day.

Yana said many appreciated the fact that the mozzarella was not
machine-made like those in the market, which resulted in less edible
parts and poorer flavour.


Due to the difficulty in obtaining buffalo milk, Friendly Farms also
makes fior di latte, though the milk have to be sourced from all over
the island as well as the mainland.

“The main problem is getting the milk. Making it halal is no problem.
But to make good handmade mozzarella, we need at least 200 litres of
milk. But it is hard to get that much of buffalo milk, so we also make
fior di latte.

“Malaysia has the potential to produce enough milk for the country’s
consumption and even for export, but the problem now is some of the
farmers don’t understand that it’s all about getting the cows proper
diet and milking regularly”, he said.

He said, it was sad to note that some farmers who work for
organisations do not milk cattle on public holidays, causing the animal
to suffer from engorgement and also reducing their milking capabilities.

He said, Malaysian farmers stand to make almost RM20,000 a month just by selling milk, if they knew how.

Bruschi said, he did not mind providing free training to these farmers and guaranteeing sale for their milk.

“It’s a win-win deal we’d be getting”, he said.

He said, good cheese also came from good milk, and that depended on the
diet of the cows. A cow fed with the right amount of fat, carbohydrate
and minerals would produce unique-tasting cheese inimitable by any
other producers in the world.


Bruschi said, Friendly Farms planned to go into making 15 other types of cheese by 2009.

Of course, he said, the problem that remained was getting quality milk supply.

“Malaysia has such great potential to become the leader in quality
dairy exports, but it has been relying on exports for so long, and
spending hundreds of million ringgits on it.

“It is possible to make wonderful cheese, to produce anything another country is producing, and to do it even better.

“This can be a multi-billion ringgit industry for Malaysia, it already
is a multi-billion dollar country in the world… it’s more than
possible to make it happen, you just have to want it”, he said.

He said, every year, consumers spend so much on dairy products,
including cheeses which were not even common ingredients in local

“But somebody’s been buying them… so there is a huge demand. It’s time to become self-sufficient”, he said.