Monthly Archives: December 2011

Goat Cheese in Nepal

December 12, 2011

Goat Cheese in Nepal

As I mentioned in my last post, I have most certainly not gotten used to the fact that my beloved cheese is nowhere to find in this country. Well, cheese does exist but only in the form of yak cheese. Now I’m not a cheese wiz (get it?!), but yak cheese was certainly not cutting it for me.

And so, I sought out the first and only goat cheese farmer in Nepal. And quite the expedition it was trying to find him.

I left Kathmandu bright and early and took a micro-bus to Thangot, which was just a short 40 minute ride to the outskirts of the city. Once you have reached Thangot, you have two options: A: take a “jeep” or B: walk.

And walk we did.

For five hours.

Up a mountain.

For five hours.

I need to start working out.

Nevertheless it was a breathtaking (literally) view of the Himalaya range, and a beautiful escape from the constant pollution and noise in Kathmandu.

Once we finally made it to the top of the mountain, we found ourselves overlooking the valley where the village of Chitlang is, which was nothing short of a storybook fairy tale land. We walked about another hour and finally made it to the first and only goat cheese farm and factory in Nepal. And let me tell you, it was worth the trek.

We were greeted by Ashok, who may be one of the sweetest farmers I have ever met. He and his family welcomed us into their home with the traditional welcoming ceremony of tikka and a marigold flower necklace. We then proceeded to make our way to his farm where he told us about his training in France and Belgium, and how he evolved into being a cheese producer.

Ashok has a herd of 70 goats, who produce about 200 ml to one liter per day. According to him, its not very much compared to the goats he worked with in Europe, but they do their job. It is a small family farm here in Chitlang, where Ashok’s wife Rita and his daughters help out in the field.

The female goats are housed in one area and the male goats are kept separate, for obvious reasons. Ashok feeds his adorable baby goats cow milk, because he cannot afford to use the goat milk for feeding- with only one operation running in Nepal and such small scale production, it makes sense. I am just happy to play with baby goats. I mean, look at them!

In addition to cow’s milk, Ashok feeds his goats specially grown Belgian grass and huge beets- apparently they make the milk tastier. I guess its working, because while staying at the farm my two friends and I gobbled down 5 wheels of goat cheese. Hey, its there to eat!

We were also able to go into his factory and learn about the cheese making process. Ashok pasteurizes the cheese to 90 Celsius, and then cools it down 20 Celsius for his hard cheese, and 35 Celsius for the soft cheese. Both are incredibly delicious, trust me I ate enough cheese last weekend for a family of 4. The soft cheese must age for one week, while the hard cheese takes about 2 months and thus is more expensive.

While goat cheese may be a bit of a luxury here in Nepal, it is certainly not “expensive” by Western standards. And so we ate.

A wheel of the soft goat cheese was 120 rupees aka a buck fitty, and a wheel of the larger hard cheese costs 700 rupees- about nine dollars. I’ve had much more expensive cheese that was not nearly as delicious as these cheeses.

If you need anymore convincing to go and check out this farm in one of the most beautiful places in the world, then you must know that there is also a beautiful lake that is a short 3 hour trek from the farm. Go there.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend, with beautiful people and a beautiful back drop. I was one happy camper last weekend, and continue to be because of the farmer’s market every Saturday right here in the city.

 

Cheers, bellpeppers!

10 Things I’ve Gotten Used to in Nepal

December 2, 2011

Hi all!

I thought I would do a post related to things I seem to have gotten used to in Nepal (related to food of course). This post is inspired by a fellow volunteer’s blog and thought it would be a nice way to reflect on the happenings here in Kathmandu, and in Nepal in general. Enjoy!

  1. Not having a refrigerator (or oven). This means very limited dairy products, no left-overs, and going shopping for food on a daily basis. This also means, wasting no food at dinner time, thinking and planning meals ahead of time, and frequently visiting the Kalimati vegetable market, which is an experience all in itself.
  2. People carrying very heavy loads of food (sometimes also cabinets, blankets, stones, really anything that needs to be carried) on their heads. The way this works is the said item is loaded into a straw basket that has a strap attached to it. The strap is adjusted on the persons head, and they are on their merry way. I still don’t quite understand if this is the easiest method to carry objects, but everyone seems to be doing it
  3. Seeing a variety of animals everywhere- on the streets, in houses, on my way to work. I knew before coming to Nepal that the majority of people here are Hindu and therefore to not eat cows. I have heard stories of cows in stores, on streets, etc. However, Kathmandu takes it one step further. Just on the walk from my apartment to work, I will see tons of stray dogs, chickens + little chicks, pigs, cows, bulls and the occasional monkey. If I wanted a village experience, I don’t have to walk more than a few steps out of my house.
  4. Related to number 3, as you can imagine, with so many live animals running around, you also see a bunch of dead ones. On any given day, on any given street (sure not Thamel or other tourist spots) you can see large chunks of red meat from some animal on display and for sale. I’ll spare you the pictures. I think my decision to be a vegetarian has been solidified since coming to Nepal.
  5. I guess related to the last two, but surprisingly I have gotten used to irregular and sometimes painful bowel movements. This is most definitely related to food and also water. All I can say is thank god for my western-style toilet.
  6. The overwhelming amount of garbage- on the streets, in the river, at the school- and the lack of any environmental awareness or consciousness. This is one project I really hope to tackle during my volunteering time.
  7. Paying about 50 cents for lunch everyday. This is my favorite. I usually order vegetable chow mein or vegetable momos for lunch, which cost a whopping 40 rupees (50 cents). I’m really over Daal Bhat (rice with lentils and vegetables), but if it were my preference I would get a plate that comes with never ending servings for 70 rupees (just under a dollar).
  8. Nepali Chia- tea. Nepali chia is overly sweetened with chini (sugar) and is usually served as a milk-based tea. I’ve come to really love it, especially since my apartment is above ‘Gupta Sweets’ – a sweets shop with a little Indian boy who brings our group tea for 10 rupees each. (This boy doesn’t attend school and is considered a child laborer. Most children are, and while there are kids who do go to school, many of them drop out in order to work. This is something I definitely have not gotten used to in Nepal.)
  9. Trying a new type of sweet almost every day. The difficulty is trying to remember their names! My latest favorite are gulab jamuns. They are delicious.
  10. Last, but certainly not least I have gotten used to the fact that I will never have my beloved goat cheese ever again while living in Nepal……. NOT! I’ve managed to locate a goat cheese farm where I will be visiting this weekend!!! Obviously there will be a full recap of events.

 

Happy weekend bellpeppers!