Did you know there is a kind of cheese that can last up to two hours in your mouth depending on the strength of your teeth?
This cheese, locally known as chhurpi, originated in the Himalayan regions of China and Nepal and eventually made its way to India and Bhutan.
Made by pastoralists living in the Himalayan region, it is supposed to be chewed like gum.
“Chhurpi was concocted thousands of years ago out of the need to do something productive with the extra milk that can’t be consumed or sold anymore,” says Mukta Singh Lama Tamang, an anthropologist at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu.
An excellent source of protein, chhurpi is traditionally made out of a mix of cow or yak milk.
Once procured, the milk is coagulated by adding calf rennet or any suitable coagulating agents, such as microbial or vegetable rennet, vinegar, or lemon.
The solid mass obtained is drained and the liquid is thrown away. This mass is wrapped and hung in a thin cloth to drain out the leftover water.
Once completely drained, the cheese is shaped into a block and left to set for 24 hours and then sliced into cylindrical pieces.
These pieces are tied together and dried by fire giving it a smokey flavour. This aged chhurpi can last you months. But if it’s stored in special yak skin bags, it can stay fresh for nearly two decades.
The smoking process removes all the moisture from it making it so hard to chew. But the more you chew on chhurpi, the softer the smokey, sweet, and creamy cheese becomes.
There is another softer version of chhurpi which is not dried and smoked but served raw. It is chewy, soft and sour, and was traditionally served as a side dish or to make pickles.
The process for making it is the same, but the drying process is skipped to retain the moisture.