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What turned into a little culinary project for myself turned into a shallow rabbit hole of recipe development. Himalayan Yak Chews are inspired by a cheese called Chhurpi, which is eaten by people in Nepal and other peoples in the Himalayas. I had this cheese many moons ago when I was in Nepal for work, and I decided to make some for myself and Tobi.

The cheese is basically dried and smoked paneer (Indian cottage cheese), cut into batons and either placed on shelves or hung to dry in a smokey room. So that's where I started. I used this paneer recipe as a base. I used 2% cow's milk. There are recipes that insist on using skim cow's milk, in order to replicate the traditional process of separating the butter fat from the yak milk (or realistically yak/cow hybrid) before curdling, but that is not necessary. I cut the finished pressed block of curd into batons shown below. I put them on a metal pizza tray with a piece of cheesecloth underneath. This doesn't look like much because my SO stole some for his lunch.
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Other Himalayan Yak chew recipes had a couple of flaws. The first obvious flaw is that the finished curd is not shaped properly and not pressed hard enough or long enough. There should be no holes in the middle of the curd when you cut it into batons. Those will become weak points when things dry up. This recipe shows an example of a suboptimal press job. There should not be any holes within the curd. I decided to press the curd for 3 hours and 30 minutes. Traditionally, it is pressed for much longer (I've seen it pressed for almost 8 hours one time), and the pressed curd sheets are left out to dry a little before they are cut into batons. However, that will absolutely wreck most knifes aside from thick machetes, which are not widely owned in the USA. I decided to use two cutting boards, some paper towels, and a metal basin with the collected whey and water as a weight to press the curd shown below.
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The other flaw some of the other Yak Chew recipes had was to bake the batons at a really low temperature for around 40 or so minutes. The end result is usually a chew with an extremely jagged edge that is somewhat puffed up because it is cooked; this makes the chews more brittle than they should be. And that's how you get stories of the chews shattering in their dog's mouths. I opted to do a traditional adjacent route: sun dry them for optimal hardness and to retain the smooth edges. For the first day (today), I will dry them indoors out of direct sunlight, and then once the color starts to change to that distinctive brown, I will move them outside to dry in direct sunlight. Everyday, I will flip them, so each side can get good sun exposure.

Dogs obviously chew on them. But what about for humans? Chhurpi for human consumption is sold in squares cut from a finished baton with a tool that looks like a paper guillotine trimmer. Traditionally, you hold the square in your mouth, and your saliva will soften the square so you can then chew on it. Because I made mine into small batons, I can suck on it like a lollipop and chew on it like a toothpick. It makes a very healthy, filling snack.

I'll post the end result here when it's done.
 
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