Armenian String Cheese Is The Bolder Relative Of Our Standard Lunchbox Snack

No matter how old we get, it appears as if we will always hold a special place in our hearts for string cheese. A forever lunchbox staple, string cheese has had our backs — as well as our stomachs — for as long as we can remember, but as we grow older, our palates, naturally, become a bit more refined. To enjoy a "grown-up" variation of the beloved lunch snack without compromising any of the qualities that make string cheese, well, string cheese, reach for the Armenian rendition, known throughout the West Asian country as chechil.

Putting aside the mozzarella flavors that most of us associate with packaged string cheese, chechil is in a category of its own. Forged from various fresh dairy milks, herbs, and seasonings, this dense cheese is heated into curds, which are then extended into thin strings, braided into large pieces, brined, salted, and left to dry out for easy pulling and snacking. Chechil is a tasty treat common around the globe — particularly in Armenia, Iran, Turkey, and the country of Georgia.

Apart from a smoky accompaniment to hops, chechil is an excellent swap for cheese on sandwiches and salads. It makes a great addition to any charcuterie board as the smokiness of the cheese sways with the sweeter rhythms of jams and fruits, while the salt harmonizes with tangy options like olives.

A cheese that journeyed from Turkey

The history of Armenian string cheese expands back to the nomadic eras of Turkey. As a preserved dairy, string cheese was likely created as the ideal traveling food for nomads as it was able to keep well during lengthy trips. Before the cheese made its way to the rest of the Middle East, it was known by Turks as çeçil. Once it spread to Armenia and other countries, the name evolved to chechil.

Chechil went on to become a popular snack in Syria by way of Armenian refugees who had escaped genocide. Since then, this string cheese has broadened its fan base across continents from Europe to the United States. As far as modern variations go, you'll discover spices ranging anywhere from black caraway seeds and mahlab — a common Middle Eastern ingredient — all the way to cumin, red pepper, dill, and garlic.