And what is this? It’s cheese. (Bonus to anyone who names the movie.) It’s hard yak cheese, dried over a kitchen fire, cured for six months, then chopped into cubes. It’s my first taste of Nepal at the Lamaydhura Tea House, a little shop that straddles the border, not far from an outpost called Meghma.
This is some hard stuff, folks. It tastes a bit like smoked wax, and it takes a good three or four minutes to extract further flavor from the cube. Basically, it gives the mouth something to do while lugging firewood up and down these mountains — as all the children do.
Yak is pivotal to the Himalayan diet and lifestyle, and it’s key to the economy as well. If you want to know just how much Nepalis and Tibetans rely on their furry friends, FAO has posted a detailed report on the ubiquitous use of yak. The report notes that Nepal produces 176 tons of yak cheese each year (using somewhat outdated figures), mainly for tourists. But this cheese, we found, was a hit among everyone on the trail.
A man named Pemba Sherpa holds his cheese by the fire.