Beyond Paneer, 10 Indian Cheese Varieties That Deserve The Spotlight

When we think of cheese, the mind often conjures images of Italian mozzarella and parmesan, Swiss fondue, or perhaps the creamy French Brie. While these international varieties have rightfully earned their place in the global culinary spotlight, it’s time to turn our attention to the lesser-known but equally delightful world of Indian cheeses. Yes, India, with its diverse culinary landscape, is not only a haven for spice enthusiasts but also a treasure trove of unique and flavorful cheeses. From the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the coastal plains of Kerala, each region boasts its distinct cheese varieties, adding a rich dimension to India’s gastronomic heritage. Here, we will uncover 10 indigenous cheese varieties that not only add a burst of flavour to local dishes but also deserve a spot on the international cheese enthusiast’s radar.
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Here Are 10 Indian Cheeses That Deserve The Spotlight:

1. Paneer: The Versatile Delight

Let’s start with the familiar yet ever-so-delicious Paneer. This fresh cheese, made by curdling milk with lemon juice or vinegar, has a mild taste and a crumbly texture. Loved by vegetarians and omnivores alike, Paneer finds its way into countless Indian dishes, from creamy curries to smoky tandoori delights.

2. Kalari: From The Kashmir Valleys

Hailing from the picturesque valleys of Kashmir, Kalari is a traditional cheese made from cow’s milk. What sets it apart is the unique smoking process, giving it a distinct aroma and flavour. Often pan-fried and served with local bread, Kalari is a true delight for those seeking an authentic taste of Kashmir.

3. Bandel: Bengal’s Gift to Cheese Connoisseurs

Moving east, we discover Bandel, a cheese with Portuguese roots that has found a home in West Bengal. Crafted from cow’s milk, Bandel is renowned for its cylindrical shape and crumbly texture. A hint of smokiness and a touch of sweetness make this cheese a favourite accompaniment to famous Bengali sweets.

4. Chhurpi: Himalayan Hard Cheese

Venturing into the Himalayan region, we encounter Chhurpi, a hard cheese made from yak’s or cow’s milk. The unique method of air-drying and smoking lends it a robust flavour, making it a popular snack in the hilly terrains of Sikkim. Chhurpi is not only tasty but also known for its longevity, making it a perfect companion for trekkers.

5. Kalimpong Cheese From The Hills Of West Bengal

Originating from the serene hills of Kalimpong in West Bengal, Kalimpong cheese is a semi-hard cheese, traditionally crafted from cow’s milk. With a smooth texture and a mild yet distinct flavour, Kalimpong Cheese has gained popularity for its versatility. Whether enjoyed on its own, melted into dishes, or paired with local fruits, it offers a delightful taste of the terroir.
Also ReadEat Cheese, Boost Immunity? 5 Surprising Health Benefits Of Cheese

Cheese comes in different varieties.

Cheese comes in different varieties.
Photo Credit: iStock

6. Goan Perad: The Guava Cheese

Goa, known for its sun-kissed beaches and vibrant culture, surprises us with a unique cheese variety. Goan Perad is a traditional guava cheese with Portuguese roots. Made from ripe guavas, sugar, and a touch of lime juice, this sweet concoction is a culinary masterpiece. The guavas are slow-cooked to perfection, resulting in a smooth, fudge-like consistency with a rich, tropical flavour. Often infused with subtle spices like cardamom, Goan Perad captivates the palate with its sweet and aromatic charm.

7. Chenna: Bengal’s Soft and Spongy Creation

Bengal adds another gem to the list with Chenna, a soft and spongy cheese made from curdled milk. Commonly used in sweets like Rasgulla and Sandesh, Chenna brings a delightful light to these beloved desserts. You can even find plain Chenna sweets – the small round wonders that taste just amazing.

8. Qudam: Rajasthan’s Aromatic Offering

Rajasthan introduces us to Qudam, a cheese made from cow’s milk that boasts an aromatic infusion of spices. Often enjoyed as a snack or appetiser, Qudam showcases the rich flavours synonymous with the royal culinary heritage of Rajasthan.

9. Khoya: The Desi Creamy Dairy

Last but not least, we have Khoya, a dairy product that is not technically a cheese but plays a crucial role in Indian sweets. Also known as Mawa, Khoya is made by reducing milk to a solid consistency, adding a creamy richness to traditional desserts like Gulab Jamun and Barfi.

10. Topli Na Paneer: A Gem In Parsi Cuisine

This is a unique form of paneer (Indian cottage cheese). Translated as “Paneer in a Basket,” this dish is traditionally prepared by placing the paneer mixture in a muslin cloth suspended in a basket, allowing excess water to drain off gradually. The result is a firm and flavorful paneer with a texture that’s both dense and crumbly. Infused with aromatic spices, Topli Na Paneer reflects the intricate blend of Persian and Indian culinary influences that characterize Parsi cuisine.

It’s time to explore India’s cheese varieties that exist right in our backyard, celebrating the unique flavours that make Indian cuisine so diverse and unique.

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