Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bandel cheese

A friend brought me this cheese from Calcutta (Kolkata) recently. My friend said it had orginally been made by priests (presumably Catholic), while another story of indeterminate source has it that was named for the Portuguese corruption of "bandar" (Arabic for port) and made by local cooks under Portuguese supervision. At any rate, today bandel is available at two shops in New Market.

An FAO webpage on traditional milk products in developing countries describes bandel as an "indigenous unripened, salted soft variety of cheese made in perforated pots. It is similar to surti paneer but made from cow's milk."

The little rounds are about 2" or 5 centimeters across, and maybe half as thick. The way to eat this cheese is to immerse it in water overnight. By morning it is distinctly softer. I pared off the rind with a knife (a butter knife is enough), and found the texture to be surprisingly spongy, like a good paneer but a bit more crumbly. The smell, however, is not like paneer! It's distinctly smoky and porky, both before and after soaking.

And you know how some things surprise you by turning out to taste quite different from how they smell? Well, bandel won't surprise you at all -- it tastes smoky and porky. I didn't like it, actually, although I like pork, and I like many kinds of cheese. This one was too strong for my liking, at least by itself.

I don't know yet whether it's supposed to be eaten in a particular way, how it might melt/cook, etc. It would probably work well crumbled into a salad, with some mild sort of greens and simple dressing. I think I could acquire the taste for bandel.

1 comment:

Geek Speller said...

I love that stuff. My aunt has just brought me some back from Kolkata...and I've just eaten some...with toast. Yummers.