This Himalayan cheese is rather special. If you’re hiking across Sikkim, for instance, it would be quite unwise to not have a string of hard, bite-sized chhurpi looped around your neck. The chhurpi experience is unlike any other. Often called the world’s hardest cheese, a single piece can last mountain folks hours in their mouth: biting, chewing, gnawing, and slowly dissolving into a delicious, and filling, creamy cheese.
Traditionally, chhurpi is made out of chauri milk, a mix between a yak and a cow. It can, however, also be made out of milk from either of those animals. Chhurpi is an excellent source of protein. The specific grasses and herbs that the chauri graze on give chhurpi its unique flavour, taste, and nutritional value.
The milk is heated and some of the fat removed before adding in some sour yogurt to curdle it. Basic cheesemaking so far. The cheese is shaped into a block and left for 24 hours before it’s sliced into cylinders. The chhurpi cylinders are then tied together in bunches and dried by the fire, this adds a smokey flavour to the cheese.
This aged chhurpi can last you months, but if it’s stored in special yak skin bags, they can stay fresh for nearly two decades.
The age-old Himalayan chhurpi has also found an unlikely market in the United States, Canada, Britain and Japan. The chewy hard cheese can be found in Petco, and other pet-food supply giants as dog treats and edible chew toys for teething puppies. Whaddya know!