I don’t think you can expect the Langtang yak cheese to come your way. That said, this was exactly what happened to me. I have been fortunate to borrow a cheese for tasting, i.e. I can eat some of uit for tasting purposes and documentation of course and pass it on to its legitimate owner. The cheese belongs to a friend of us, who again has a friend currently residing in Nepal. So this cheese is a Christmas present.
The story behind Langtang Yak Cheese
They have been making cheese for a long time in the Himalayas, but not the kind we are used to. There is a cheese called Chhurpi which comes in two variants, soft and hard, and by hard I mean hard, rather unchewable for most og us. You have to suck and in that way melt it in your mouth. This is also a well knows snack for dogs. This hard Chhurpi is made the same way as the soft but pressed and then hung to dry over a heat source. I cab understand that turns out hard after a while.
Then the Swiss came along, the geography is similar of course, but the milk providers different which they obviously regarded as a challenge. This was back in 1952. Instead of me repeating the whole story about the Langtang yak cheese, you can read an extensive article in Nepali Times.
Most interesting – how does it taste?
I must admit it was not love at first taste or smell for that sake. But it did not take long. I do not have any details how it is made, but based on a Swiss tradition, I assume, we still might have some idea. First it is hard, i.e. a grana style yak cheese, except they were Swiss and probably had Sbrinz in mind. If not skimmed milk at least partially skimmed milk. This assumption because they also make butter at this small dairy. They make about 14 tons of cheese and two tons of butter by the way. It has been natured for a while. Yak milk is generally richer than cows’ milk in both proteins, fat and other solids.
To start with the aroma, typical farmstead, and hints of salami which comes out stronger when you taste the cheese. Salt is relatively moderate, at least is that that my perception, but I am not extremely sensitive, so when it comes to salt I have to taste consciously. If not I can forget the salt part of tasting altogether. I think the salami bit, you can relate to umami, at least that’s my conclusion. You have the sweetness, og course the milk is rich so it comes natural, but when I talk of sweetness it nothing near gouda to give a reference. Well balanced and a good cheese and of course very exciting to have had the opportunity to taste it.
Like most grana style cheeses this one is best for grating and you can use it the same way and for the same purposes as you would with traditional grana style cheeses. Just remember the taste is different, not poorer, just different. If you ever get the opportunity to try it, you should.