Yak cheese

(Photo by Jerry Redfern)

“It’s hard yak cheese, dried over a kitchen fire, cured for six months, then chopped into cubes . . .  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,” says Karen in her post A Bit of Yak in the Hand.

My friend Doris Shaw gave me a piece of yak cheese. It must have been sometime between 1983 and 1986, because we were classmates during those years as under-graduate students in Bangalore. She lived in a Bible college campus where many students from the North East of India studied, and that’s how she got hooked to yak cheese.

The second and last time I saw yak cheese was in Gangtok in June 2005. Watching my joy at seeing the little plasticy cubes, those with me popped a piece into their mouths. Every single one of them was singularly unimpressed and spat it out.

Not everyone can eat yak cheese; you’ve got to have class.


  1. Nahomi,

    I just Twitter’d this article. I have no class either, but I would willingly try some Yak Cheese!

    I am patiently waiting for the next Diamondback Rattlesnake to cross my path, as I have a special place for him, on my backyard grill.

    When that day happens, I will reciprocate with a photograph.

    Winter is coming down under…right?

    • The months of March, April, and May are supposed to be Autumn months. But it is getting less warm, and the sun hasn’t risen at 6:50 in the morning when my son leaves for his unitech classes. (The problem: I run the risk of having to jump start my car, because I leave my headlights on after dropping him off at the busstop.)
      Yak cheese is not as challenging as eating snakes. Yak, after all, is some kind of cattle animal. You have more class than I have, just to even mention snakes and grills in a single sentence. ha ha.

  2. Nahomi,

    I am intrigued by your use of the word class. Please indulge me.

    In the United States, class means: fancy, a wealthy person might be considered classy, because they can afford things, that those less fortunate might not, a business woman might wear a “classy” suit. Again, having to do with wealth, style, one of the elite.

    Does this have the same meaning in New Zealand?

    • I think the meaning is exactly the same here. I was just being silly. I was just suggesting that I was in some way superior because I liked yak cheese that the others thought was yuk cheese. Actually, my companions that day were quite frank about how inferior they thought my sense of taste was. 🙂

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