Made From Yak Milk, This World’s Hardest Cheese Is Also A Chewing Gum For Himalayan People

by Tejashee Kashyap

With its long shelf life, nutritional value, and unique characteristics, Chhurpi cheese has become an integral part of the local cuisine and culture.  This traditional Himalayan cheese is often called the world’s hardest cheese. And if you have been in the mountains, it’s very likely you have seen pahaar people biting, chewing, gnawing this cheese.

Why Is It Called World’s Hardest Cheese?

Chhurpi cheese

image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Mostly found in the Eastern Himalayas like Sikkim, Darjeeling as well as neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bhutan, Chhurpi cheese is made from the milk of yaks.

The process of making chhurpi cheese is quite fascinating and time-consuming. It starts with boiling the yak milk, and once it cools down, it is curdled using either lime juice or yoghurt as a coagulant. The curd is then wrapped in a cloth and pressed to remove excess moisture. After a few days, the cheese becomes firm and dense, with a slightly crumbly texture.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of chhurpi cheese is its longevity. Due to the harsh climatic conditions in the Himalayas, food preservation is essential, and chhurpi cheese serves this purpose exceptionally well. It can be stored for months or even years without spoiling. This longevity is achieved by further drying the cheese and sometimes smoking it, which reduces the water content and inhibits the growth of bacteria.

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How Do You Savour Chhurpi Cheese?

Chhurpi cheese

image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Chhurpi cheese is renowned for its nutritional value. It is a good source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus, making it an excellent choice for individuals following a high-protein diet or looking to increase their calcium intake. Moreover, it is low in fat and carbohydrates, making it a healthy snack option. The cheese is also rich in probiotics, which are beneficial for gut health.

In the traditional Himalayan cuisine, chhurpi cheese is used in various ways. It can be consumed as a snack, either on its own or by chewing it for a long time to soften it. Chhurpi cheese is incredibly hard and requires prolonged chewing, making it an ideal pastime for the locals. It is also grated and used as a seasoning in soups, stews, and stir-fried dishes, adding a unique flavour and texture.

So the next time you go to the mountains, don’t forget to have this cheese that offers a delightful experience and a taste of the Himalayas.

Cover image credits: Wikimedia Commons