Fermented Milk Products from All Over the World. Byaslag (Mongolia)
Byaslag is a type of cheese from Mongolia, which is dried outside, on the rooftops, in order to be enjoyed for longer.
So, in spite of the fact that byaslag looks like a matured cheese, it is not aged, as its aspect and hard texture is given by its drying process. In fact, some pieces of byaslag have to be soaked up in warm tea before eating, as they are very dry and hard. This particular cheese is mainly made out of yak’s milk, as these animals are among the favorite of the Mongolians. Still, mare’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk can also be used, but are not too frequent because goats and sheep, for example, cannot be milk anywhere. The taste of the byaslag is not too strong or special, due to the fact that the cheese is not aged. So, you can expect a cheese that is creamy, sweet, and slightly salty in the beginning, with grassy notes in the aftertaste.
It is easy to prepare byaslag if you have access to yak’s milk. If you don’t, any kind of milk will do, even cow’s milk if you have nothing else in handy. You will have to boil the milk as a first step to make byaslag. Then, you can add a cup of rennet or, most commonly found, kefir. After adding the kefir, allow the milk to curdle and then remove only the solid parts by using a clean piece of cloth. Squeeze the solids to further remove the remaining liquid and press them with two pieces of wood by using something heavy to place on top. This will compact the solids and will form your piece of byaslag. Because the nomadic Mongolians are constantly on the move, they weren’t able to leave their cheese to mature inside the house, as most people do. This is why they chose to dry their cheese and consume it this way, as a snack or side dish. When on the move, dried foods last longer and are faster to prepare.