It looks like braided raffia, golden with browned curves and fringe. After untying and unwinding, it takes on the appearance of shredded chicken. It is, in fact, the string-like cheese known as chechil. Though Armenian in origin, this cheese is a popular appetizer in Kazakhstan and is eaten while drinking beer. For good reason. Its flavor is unique for cheese. The first bite is incredibly salty followed by a strong smoky flavor, almost like a smoked whitefish (your taste buds will be overwhelmed and salivate immediately).
The texture is dry, much drier than American string cheese, which is often creamy. Chechil looks like shredded chicken and chews like it too. Larger pieces are more rubbery like a mozzarella that squeaks on your teeth. It is probably not for everybody, but it does pair wonderfully with beer, which you will need to counteract the intense flavors!
Might I recommend Jaws Lager by Jaws Brewery. Based in Zarechny, Russia, the brewery took its name from the mother of all winter waves sought by surfers in Maui. It seems like an odd choice for an inland brewery located in western Russia, but the name is symbolic as Jaws led the wave of craft brewing culture into the Urals region starting production in 2008. I am quite impressed with the flavor of the lager (crisp, deep, and a little bitter) and the fact that I don’t feel like I am full even after consuming a liter. They offer a variety of other brews and even if you are not a beer drinker, the artwork on their bottles is worth a look. Looking forward to trying more as they make their way to Astana!
Happy Friday, Everyone! Enjoy your weekends!