Tibetan Cheese

Tibetan cheeses - Zhongdian Market

Tibetan cheeses – Zhongdian Market

Tibetan cheese is a food staple in Tibetan cuisine. Tibetan cheese tends to be extremely hard and is eaten raw. It is made from “dara” (buttermilk), which is boiled for five minutes, then cooled to 20°C or less. It then separates into soft curds and a thin whey, which is drained off and fed to livestock. Sometimes a handful of curd is squeezed out from between the fingers, creating noodle-like shapes which are left to dry. Other times, melted butter and sugar are mixed into the curd, which is then formed into pretzel-like shapes and dried in the sun. The result is white, hard and sweet, and has the consistency of a peppermint. It is called ‘chura kampo’, which means dried hard cheese.

There is a another type of cheese, ‘chhurpi’, which is even harder. It is made from solidified yoghurt, which is then cut into three-centimetre squares and strung on yak-hair necklaces. One of these yellowish brown pieces can last for at least two hours before one can finish eating it, and so it is suitable for chewing on lengthy journeys.

The milk used is that of yaks, and what is used for cheese-making is buttermilk — the milk left over after making butter. The cheese is allowed to dry out completely rather than being eaten fresh, as in rubing. Even rushan is only allowed to dry for twenty four hours and then should be eaten before it becomes too hard. Although chhurpi is sometimes boiled in soup to soften it a little, Tibetan cheese is generally consumed raw, not cooked.

Tibetan cheeses include soft cheese curds resembling cottage cheese made from buttermilk called chura loenpa (or ser). Hard cheese is called Chura Kampo. Extra hard cheese, made from solidified yoghurt, is called chhurpi, and is also found in Sikkim and Nepal. Another type of cheese called shosha or churul, with a flavour said to resemble Limburger, is made from cream and the skin of milk.[cheese]

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