There are cheeses out there that prove challenging to some palates and sensibilities, most notably the infamous casu marzu, or Sardinian maggot cheese which is actually quite tasty. And then there are the so-called stinky cheeses Tallegio and its odiferous brothers all which I find quite lovely. The most challenging two cheeses I’ve personally encountered are from Tibet. Both are made from yak milk.
One is called churrpi. “Hard Dried Cheese Candy,” reads a package I purchased at Himalayan Connection in Jackson Heights. It contains cubes of dried yak yogurt that are hardly candy like. The smoky tasting little blocks are meant to be sucked on and worried at with one’s teeth. The owner tells me they are a favorite of his ever-present snow white dog Rocky, who presides over the shop from the front counter. They also proved to be a favorite for my pal’s pooch who gamely crunched through a cube in mere seconds and immediately demanded more.
It takes a human about three hours to get a through a cube of churrpi, making it suitable for a trek or a marathon writing session. Chura kampo, its squigglier, sweeter, whiter cousin is somewhat easier on the teeth. It has a sweet note and a lactic tang.
In case you’re wondering, there is a Tibetan cheese that I do like. It’s a stinker called chu rul, which forms the pungent backbone of a soup called tsak sha chu rul.