If asked, most of us can rattle off names of cheese such as gouda, parmesan, feta, brie, cheddar, camembert&mdashyou get the idea&mdashwith delicious ease. The story takes a different turn when you ask about Indian origin cheese, however. Here's a crash course in the lesser-known counterparts of the ubiquitous paneer and their origins in India.
The Bandel cheese, a salty, crumbly thing, owes its name to the town of Bandel in West Bengal, which was once under Portugese territory. Available as small dumpling-sized balls in Kolkata, Bandel has a very dry texture and smoky flavour, and is often soaked overnight to soften. It is then added to dishes&mdashsprinkled on crackers, tossed on salad, or sometimes, like feta, indulged covertly on its own.
A lesser-known variant of paneer, you may have tried chhena if you&rsquove spent some time in West Bengal. With Portugese origins, this Indian cheese is made by heating milk, and curdling it with a splitting agent, often lemon juice. This is then drained very lightly to lend the chenna its crumbly texture. The popular Indian sweet rasgulla is made using boiled chhena balls lathered with sugar syrup&mdashand it is also used to make sandesh, rasmalai and cham cham, loved Bengali sweet. At home, however, people simply spread some chhena on toast and pop it in as a snack.
Kalari or maish krej is a local cheese often alluded to as the mozzarella of Kashmir. Milk by the nomadic Gujjar tribe of the J&K, the kalari is essentially dense round discs of cheese (even called milk chapatti), and is often consumed by deep-frying and seasoning with salt and chilly powder. Cheesemakers such as Chris Zandee are making it available through his artisanal cheese brand Himalayan Cheese, which can reach you, in whichever corner of India you sit, at a simple add to a virtual cart.
An ode to the cheerful valley of Kalimpong, the Kalimpong cheese was first surprisingly first made in Sikkim by priest Brother Abraham. A mouthful of it may taste slightly similar to the gouda cheese and has a sharp, tangy taste which is enjoyed with a glass of wine. It&rsquos available by the wheel, so be prepared to barrel it back home.
Born in the Himalayas, Chhurpi is a yak milk-based cheese that is known for its high-protein and nutritional value. It is commonly made in the regions of Nepal, Tibet and in India, and can be found in street corners in the Northeastern state of Sikkim. Ordinarily, chhurpi has two varieties&mdashsoft and hard. The softer chhurpi is often used as part of a filling for momos, and even added to simple, homemade chutneys.
ALSO READ A Rare Tea Estate Run By A Woman Planter