Kyeong Joo Lee: The secret weapon behind Shanghai's best pizza

Kyeong Joo Lee: The secret weapon behind Shanghai's best pizza

That authentic cheese flavor at your favorite restaurant might just be the work of Korean-born Kyeong Joo Lee, Shanghai's own 'Mozzarella Lady'
Shanghai mozzarella lady
Kyeong Joo Lee has balls -- mozzarella balls. Along with her “Magnificent Three,” Kyeong supplies kitchens around Shanghai with fresh cheese.

When Kyeong Joo Lee first traveled to Italy 13 years ago, she fell in love with two things: cappuccino and creamy cheese. And I'm glad she did. Otherwise Shanghai might still be without a fresh mozzarella maker.

 Kyeong Joo LeeOne of Kyeong Joo Lee's "Magnificent Three," Liu Su Qing.Kyeong runs Solo Latte, a Shanghai-based mozzarella delivery operation that supplies a handful of well-known Shanghai restaurants, including La Strada, Mr Willis and Issimo, as well as online grocers like SmartDirect.

I recently sat down with Kyeong in her Xinzhuang-based space, where we made and sampled some pretty fantastic cheese. 

Fresh cheese means getting up early

It’s six in the morning out in Shanghai’s Xinzhuang Industrial Zone when I first get to the warehouse rented by Kyeong. Two of her “Magnificent Three” employees -- Xu Shi Hong and Liu Su Qing -- have already been at work for nearly two hours preparing today’s shipment of China’s creamiest and richest Italian cheeses.

I watch Liu  tie off her freshly made burrata balls with a string of water parsley, and then pack them in their salty brine, ready for delivery. Shanghai’s very own Mozzarella Lady beams with the joy of a proud mama when she tells me her simple wish for both Liu and Xu: for them to become great cheese makers.

Because my labor costs are cheaper here, we are able to take the time to hand stretch the cheese and create these beautiful strands— Kyeong Joo Lee, founder of Solo Latte

“We only deliver the freshest possible product and Liu and Xu are a big part of that,” says Kyeong. “If you buy our cheese through SmartDirect or eat a pizza with our cheese melted on it at La Strada, it was made that very day by me and my Magnificent Three.”

The third Magnificent Three cheese maker in Kyeong’s shop is Sicilian-born Giaccomo, who has been stretching and shaping Mozzarella balls since he was 15 years old. 

Throughout this first year of business, Kyeong has been constantly tweaking her formula to create consistently delicious cheese. 

“The dramatic changing of seasons in Shanghai is hard to keep up with,” she says. “One day the air is dry, the next it is so humid. This change affects both the taste and texture of my product.”

'Only milk'

The name of Kyeong’s operation, Solo Latte, comes from the idea that because milk is the star ingredient in cheese, it must be of the highest quality.

 making mozzarellaLiu Su Qing ties off her freshly made burrata balls with a string of water parsley.

“Cheese made with milk containing antibiotics from the cows tastes noticeably different and just not as good,” explains Kyeong. “Our cheese comes from pure organic milk from Ammerland Molkerei, a dairy farm in Germany. It is because of the quality of their milk that our cheese is so rich and delicious.”

Kyeong’s careful consideration of the changing climate mixed with fine imported ingredients and her meticulously trained Three, all make for extraordinary cheese.

Kyeong's mozzarella has a deep and robust flavor, richer than most varieties imported to Shanghai. The burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, is creamy and rich. But the real treat is the stracciatella, a particular kind of mozzarella used as stuffing for the burrata made with torn pieces of mozzarella and cream.

One day the air is dry, the next it is so humid. This change affects both the taste and texture of my product.— Kyeong Joo Lee, founder of Solo Latte

Because labor and costs are so high in Italy, stracciatella, which is artfully hand stretched into thin angel hair pasta-like strands, is not eaten as often as it was 50 years ago.

“Because my labor costs are cheaper here, we are able to take the time to hand stretch the cheese and create these beautiful strands,” says Kyeong.

The time and effort it takes to craft the stracciatella is worth it; the strands of cheese bathe in a pool of cream and are delightful.

When she started Solo Latte, Kyeong simply wanted to “share good quality food with my neighbors.” Thankfully, she considers everyone in Shanghai one of these neighbors.

 solo latteThese freshly made mozzarella balls will find their way to kitchens around Shanghai.

getting there

Solo Latte
Ms Kyeong Joo Lee
+86 136 6153 1657
sololatte1@gmail.com