India’s Appetite For Cheese

India has a rich tradition of cheese making, and we have many types of indigenous cheeses to show for it. While we may not have the best reputation when it comes to our dairy products, India is home to some of the highest-quality cheese in the world.  

These cheeses are produced by dairy farmers who follow traditional methods of farming, which involves working with and producing different kinds of milk. In addition to this, these cheeses are also made using less-processed and natural ingredients. Let’s dive right in to find out more about the cheese we love in our country. 

1. Chhurpi 

This traditional cheese is made in the state of Sikkim and is prepared from Yak milk, which is full of nutrition. While visiting Sikkim you can taste this in momo fillings and chutneys. Chhurpi has two variants- the soft and the hard. The hard chhurpi is known for its smoky taste and dense texture.  

2. Chhena

You must have heard of the famous chhena, which is different from paneer, and is native to the states of West Bengal and Odisha. Chhena is the star of the famous sweet dish from Odisha- Chhena Poda that is prepared entirely from cheese. Chhena has Portuguese origins and is made by heating milk, then curdling it with lemon juice. It is then drained lightly and is characterized by a crumbly texture. Several Bengali desserts like the world-famous Rosagolla, Rasmalai, Sandesh, Chhena Gaja, and more are made from this cheese. 

3. Bandel 

We have the Portuguese to thank for this cheese as well. It was during their reign in Bandel in West Bengal that the potential of curdled milk was realized. Today, you can find two versions of this cheese –a cream-colored plain type, and a brown, smoky one. Both variants are salty and taste best when added to salads and pasta. No wonder they sell out pretty quickly at New Market in Kolkata.  

4. Kalari  

Kalari is also known as maish krej and is the Indian version of mozzarella. This indigenous cheese is made in Rajouri, Udhampur, and Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir. To make this cheese, cow or goat milk is used, resulting in a stretchy, dense cheese. It is a common Dogri street food relished by locals, as well as tourists who tend to prefer it be sauteed and salted before eating it. Kalari is usually eaten along with chili and lime. Kalari kulcha is also a popular food in Jammu and Kashmir where the kulcha is stuffed with Kalari and shallow fried. 

5. Churu

It is an aromatic cheese made in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and our very own Sikkim. The word Churu means 'spoiled cheese' in the Nepali language, and is characterized by its blue color and earthy flavor. Churu plays the main role in the ema datshi or rotten cheese soup that people of the Himalayan region consume, usually along with rice or millet cakes. 

6. Kalimpong Cheese 

This mellow yet sharp cheese comes from the hills of Kalimpong in West Bengal. A Catholic priest is credited with the creation of this indigenous cheese. The gouda balls that are being sold in the supermarkets are all Kalimpong Cheese but are labeled under other brands. You can also find huge balls of gouda cheese weighing as much as 12 kg at J Johnson's store in New Market, Kolkata. 

7. Paneer

If India has a love of cheese, it is due to paneer. Indians love to gorge on panee, a type of  cottage cheese, making it one of the most widely consumed cheeses in India, if not the most. Paneer is made from cow or buffalo milk and is used as the main ingredient in vegetarian curries, pulaos, desserts, and more. People from the northern part of the country are particularly fond of it, and elaborate paneer dishes are the mainstay of North Indian cuisine. Paneer is soft, crumbly, and tasteless by itself. It is prepared from milk that has been curdled with lemon or vinegar. Add a few spices, and a soft paneer comes alive, bringing a burst of flavor that has captivated millions across the world. 

8. Qudam  

Not as popular elsewhere but a favorite in its home region, Qudam is a chewy cheese found in Gujjar households in Kashmir. It is a rare cheese and is not easily available in shops. This cheese is made at home and has a very long shelf life. It has a crumbly texture and mellow flavor. 

You can try visiting a local cheese shop to see if they have any cheeses from these categories. You can also ask your local grocery store or cheese merchant to help you find some authentic cheeses.