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The World’s Toughest Cheese Is Hard as a Rock, Turns into Chewing Gum

I understand that the title reads a bit strange, but then again this is no ordinary cheese we’re talking about. It’s the hardest cheese in the world, and yes, it can be chewed like gum for up to two hours.

Chhurpi or Durkha is a traditional Nepalese cheese that has been a means of survival or many remote communities for centuries. Made out of the milk of yaks, or chauri (the cross of a yak and a cow), chhurpi comes in two varieties – soft and hard. The soft stuff is usually consumed as a side dish with rice, as filling for traditional dumplings, or ever as a soup. But it’s the hard variety that makes chhurpi famous all over the world. You may think you’ve tried hard cheeses before, but trust me when I say that this Nepalese staple puts them all to shame. It’s as hard as a rock, so you can’t even bite into it for at least an hour or so.

Photo: Krish Dulal/Wikimedia Commons

Soft chhurpi is made by heating the milk to 76 degrees Fahrenheit, then separating the buttermilk and boiling it to lower the water content. The obtained hard mass is  wrapped and hung in a thin cloth to drain out more of the water content. For the hard variety, soft chhurpi is wrapped in a jute bag and pressed to eliminate any leftover water. Then, the block is cut into smaller chunks that are hung outdoors to harden even more.

In its final form, hard chhurpi is literally impossible to bite into. It’s as tough as a rock, so you need to soften it up before you even try chewing it. Most people keep it in their mouths for hours, regularly chewing on the outer layers as they gradually soften. Munching through a small block of chhurpi the size of a toffee candy can take as long as two hours, and the amazing thing is that the cheese maintains its flavor during all that time.

 

As you can imagine, even the soft parts that you manage to bite into aren’t exactly tender, so you can chew on them like chewing gum before swallowing them.

Eating a small block of chhurpi sounds more like a chore, but the cheese’s high protein content have ensured Nepalese communities survival in the country’s harsh mountainous environment for centuries, so it’s an important part of the culture. You can find it in nearly every small market at extremely affordable prices (around 5 cents per cube).

 

Because it’s so high in protein and so hard to chew through, hard chhurpi has become a popular dog treat in many parts of the world.