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.