Cheese is a comfort food that the entire world seems to be crazy about and it’ll be sometime before they get over it. The craze is real! Very often we see videos of entire foods being blanketed by melting creamy sheets of cheese of different kinds, so this one’s for all the cheese lovers out there.
There is a kind of cheese that is made in the Himalayas that is rarely heard of it is called Churrpi. The churrpi is essentially cheese that comes in 3 textures and 3 tastes. It can be rock hard, slightly soft to the chew or almost crumbly and they can taste bland, sweet and tangy respectively.
On the streets of North Bengal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal you can find this cheese hanging casually, garlands after garlands of churrpi in brown or white shades. For us churrpi is pure nostalgia. One may find the people of these regions chewing either of the two beetle nut or churrpi as they are the best form of time pass they can find that keeps the mouth occupied for hours. Where beetle nut may have adverse effects on the health, churrpi is actually beneficial for health and oral hygiene.
Churrpi is not just hard cheese but a lifestyle trait for the people here. Churrpi is so harmless even children consume it. Where in the world people chew gum to exercise their mouths and improve gum health, in this part of the world we chew on churrpi. For someone who has just found out about the cheese it may take a cube or two to get a hang of. It may well seem inedible at first but as you keep sucking on it gets softer and a mild sweet sour taste fills your palette.
As mentioned above there are 3 kinds of churrpi:
The hard churrpi:
This is the most popularly eaten kind of the cheese. It is mostly made of yak milk but can also be made of cow milk. This is the kind that takes time to get a hang of initially you cannot bite into it and we suggest you do not even try to bite into it you might lose a chip of your teeth. Let it sit in your mouth and keep playing it around in the mouth and wait 15 minutes as the churrpi starts to peel off layer by layer. You can now nibble on the layers and enjoy the subtly sour and sweet taste; this is practically where chewing a churrpi gets addictive. It has a grainy texture and a milky flavor and sometimes it may throw off some smokiness because of the method of its preparation.
To prepare this churrpi, the raw milk is collected in a container and left at one of the warmer corners in the house in order to start with the fermentation process. After the milk has fermented, additional fresh milk is added to the mixture and left for about 5 days. The mixture then coagulates and turns to curd. This fermented milk is then churned in a traditional wooden container that is used to make butter. When buttermilk starts to collect in the container it is separated from the cheese and the cheese is then wrapped in clean jute bags and pressed down by heavy stones to lose any water left in there. The churrpi is then sliced into rectangular sheets that are then hung over a burning stove to dry by the smoke which is where the smokiness in the churrpi comes from. The churrpi is then diced into bit sized cubes and sold in local markets.
Slightly soft churrpi:
This is the sweeter version of the brown churpi is actually very milky to taste. These are even softer and can be bit into in a single bite and finishes quicker in around 15 minutes. This kind of churrpi is hard to come by because it is slightly on the expensive side. The process of making this churrpi is similar to the one that makes hard churrpi but this one is not left out to dry in a way that it hardens but is removed from the drying rack as soon as the skin grows slightly hard.
This is the kind of churrpi that is used to cook vegetables and brews out of. In Bhutan this is churrpi makes for the most traditional dish called the “ema datshi” which is creamy white gravy with potatoes and thinly striped chilies to add into the mixture. This kind of churpi can be found at local bazaars and stalls. In Nepali cuisines, the Churrpi is used to add into chutneys, achars, momos and paired best with an edible fern called the ningro. The texture of the churrpi is similar to that of ricotta cheese or even cottage cheese or paneer.
The churrpi is similar in technique right up until the fermented milk is churned and the buttermilk is separated from the churrpi. The churrpi that is separated is not dried on racks instead it is sold as is which a crumbly textured churrpi is.
Churrpi is known to be a great source of good bacteria that works wonders in the gut and the stomach. In high altitude areas where vegetables are seasonal and sometimes not available, churrpi becomes a great alternative to vegetables for its impeccable source of calcium and proteins usually sourced from vegetables.
Very recently churrpi went international by a brand that makes churrpi (the hard one) as a treat to help pets with their teething period; Which is a much recent discovery for us because up until now we never had that angle on the churrpi.
It turns out that the churrpi is super effective to help pets with their teething and is widely bought by people worldwide.
One can find churrpi both for people as well as pets on the neorigins website. Do head over to the website page to try this rare and unheard Churrpi (cheese) and purchase a packet for yourself (or for your pet)!