Chhurpi is a type of traditional cheese snack consumed in the Himalayan region of Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India. It remotely resembles the Italian ricotta in form, taste and preparation. There are two types of churpi depending on the hardness and the way of relishing this cheese delight – a soft variety which can be eaten alongside with another dish such as rice and a hard variety which is consumed as a snack by chewing it like a betel nut.
Churpis can be made either in dairy farms or at home from buttermilk. The buttermilk is boiled until it becomes a solid mass which is then separated from the liquid and wrapped and hung in a thin cloth to drain out the water. The initial product obtained from this process is soft, white and neutral in taste. However, if one leaves it to ferment a little bit it acquires a very tangy taste. In order to make the hard variety, the soft churpi (whose production process was described above) is wrapped in a jute bag and pressed hard to drain the water. After it dries, it is cut into small cuboidal pieces and hung over fire to harden it further.
Being two very different products, the soft and hard churpi are eaten in different ways and on different occasions. The soft churpi is usually used as a side dish with rice and vegetables, or it is used as an ingredient for various types of momo fillings, grinded together with tomatoes and spices to make chutneys or made into soup. Dry churpi, on the other hand, is usually consumed by being kept in the mouth to moisten it, letting parts of it become soft, then chewing it like gum. In this manner, one block of churpi can last up to two hours.
You can find churpi prepared in various ways all across Nepal. In Kathmandu it is available in almost all of the shops or in the open air markets such as Ason. In the Himalayan region, it is very often that churpis are made from yak milk, giving them a very distinct flavor.