I’ve spoken with many middle aged Chinese people who have reported that for as long as they can remember, even growing up on a farm, they would never drink milk, even their own cattle’s, without first boiling it on the hob firstly. Yet many make claims that until later this century nobody ever pasteurized milk.

I’m mainly interested in Eastern Chinese cultures, but then realized that throughout history this might have been less well defined and even now is relatively broad. For that reason I wouldn’t mind comparative remarks on for example Mongolian, Korean, or Russian (or even Tibetan or Xinjiangese cultural traditions. Please feel free to scope your answer however it will seem most sensible and insight-yielding to do so.

Lastly please forgive my ignorance but I simply have no idea where I would start in trying to look for answers to this myself.

  • 3
    Boiling, or just heating? Pasteurization doesn't bring the milk to the boiling point.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 11, 2023 at 15:49
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    Might it have something to do with lactose intolerance (which is common in Asian countries)? It appears that the boiling breaks down the lactose into something more digestible.
    – Steve Bird
    Oct 11, 2023 at 15:50
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    Boiling milk till it starts to rise used to be commonplace in the USSR - up until the collapse of the Communism and coming of civilization (western milk that doesn't spoil.) Nevertheless, raw milk, directly from the cow, known as "parnoe moloko", was considered as a delicacy when visiting villages.
    – Roger V.
    Oct 11, 2023 at 16:12
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    @Seekinganswers pasteurization is a rather old method - the milk that one bought in Soviet shops was also supposed to be pasteurized, but it wouldn't last more than a few days. I milk that remains good for more than a week certainly requires some more advance pasteurization technique. Unfortunately, it prevents from using it for making sone traditional dishes, based in spoilt milk.
    – Roger V.
    Oct 11, 2023 at 18:19
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    @Seekinganswers from a brief glance in Wikipedia, there exist multiple techniques: thermization, pasteurization, sterilization, UHT and others, differing by temperature, rapidity of heating and cooling, method of heating, etc.
    – Roger V.
    Oct 11, 2023 at 18:27

1 Answer 1


As far as I know, Chinese traditionally do not consume much milk and also do not like to consume raw meat (unlike some Europeans). The usual reason given is that raw meat would be unsafe to consume. So it looks more than plausible to me that Chinese would not drink raw milk for similar reasons.

Mongolians on the other hand consume lots of milk and also milk products. Not sure about 100 years ago, but nowadays there is a strong aversion against unprocessed meat or milk, also because it is considered unsanitary/unsafe. For most milk products the first step is to boil the milk. Airag is produced from raw milk, but through fermentation and contains alcohol, so it is considered safe to consume.

  • 3
    One would imagine this has a lot to do with the prevalence of lactose intolerance among those different peoples. One reference I found indicated that 92% of Chinese adults are lactose intolerant.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 11, 2023 at 16:20
  • @MCW possible, but then Chinese even boil their water, so there may be other factors as well.
    – Jan
    Oct 11, 2023 at 16:51
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    @Jan: Chinese even boil their water Most people around the world (including the PRC) do not have access to clean drinking water from the tap and so have to boil it.
    – user103496
    Oct 12, 2023 at 1:02
  • @user103496 I am aware of that, but in China the popularity of boiled water is often claimed to be greater than usual. See e.g. scmp.com/lifestyle/food-drink/article/3085202/…
    – Jan
    Oct 12, 2023 at 6:24

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