Rajya Metok is a yak cheese being developed in Tibet for Western tastes. It is exported to the West and not really consumed in Tibet, aside from a small amount sold to tourists.
The cheese is a semi-firm, stirred-curd cheese made in wheels about 16 inches wide (40 cm) weighing between 9 to 13 pounds (4 to 6 kg.)
The mild-tasting cheese tastes to some Westerners a little like mozzarella cheese. It has more of an animal smell to it than cheese made from cow’s milk does, though very little of the smell comes through in the taste.
Making Rajya Metok Cheese
The cheese is made from milk from a dri (the Tibetan word for a female yak.) The milk is supplied to the cheesemakers from herds maintained by nomads. The milk is collected twice a day and transported to the dairy right away.
In making the cheese, all the butterfat is left in the milk (traditionally, Tibetans made their cheeses from skim milk or buttermilk.) The milk is pasteurized over boilers heated with fire made from dried yak dung.
While other Western-style cheeses made in the Himalayas (such as in Nepal) are cured in brine, the rind of Rajya Metok is instead salted with a red Tibetan salt known as “Tears of Drorma” (better known as Peach Blossom Salt in China and the West) This salt is coarse, which means the salt stays on the outside of the cheese instead of being absorbed in — which is the same principle as that for kosher salt. The rind ends up slightly reddish from the salt. The cheese is then aged for up to 1 year in a curing room (other Western style cheeses made in the Himalayas are often aged in outdoor shelters.)
Rajya Metok cheese melts well, though it doesn’t run as much as other cheeses when melted.
“Rajya” is a village on the Yellow River in Qihghai Province, Tibet. “Metok” means “flower” in Tibetan.
The name of the cheese is also being spelt “Ragya Metok.”