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Today I was doing some shopping at the Tsentralni Hali in Sofia and bought some cheese, cause it looked so damn gooood.

Well, it is good indeed...but it has the consistency of a brick and you don't cut it, you chop it! And you don't eat it, you chew it!

So, maybe I'm missing something. I took a photo of the top of the jar: jar containing the cheese and label with name and price

What the heck did I buy? Can someone tell me how am I supposed to eat it?

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This is not a traditional Bulgarian product (*). It was created by one specific dairy company ("Jossy") and it is not even listed on their normal web page (http://www.josi.bg). There is one reference to it on their Facebook page (https://bg-bg.facebook.com/JOSIltd/photos/a.153616871328971.29781.150703611620297/926675350689782/) where they ask users to recognize the product, and only one person made this identification, everybody else thinking it is some kind of unripened cheese or mozzarella style cheese.

The name can simply be translated as "braided cheese". Note that traditionally, Bulgaria only differentiated between Feta cheese (sirene) and a specific yellow semi-soft cheese (Kashkaval). Since opening of the markets in the 1990s, other cheeses get imported and their names get imported along, for example roquefort. Sometimes the names of yellow soft cheeses get applied to the correct cheese (gouda, edamer) but there is also the tendency to use "kashkaval" as an umbrella term for any semisoft yellow cheese. This is made even more complicated by having the term "sirene" mean both "cheese" and "Feta cheese", so yellow cheeses and other cheeses are not always recognized as a subtype of cheese.

Linguistic details aside, it seems they created a new type of cheese, with unknown technology, and reused the generic meaning of "kashkaval" to give it a name. Having never tried it, I cannot give it advice how to eat it. Although, "you don't eat it - you chew it" strikes me as strange, since I chew all cheeses I eat, except maybe quark and other spoonable ones. So I would assume that "chew it" is a good place to start :)


(*) please read MotoDrizzt's answer, he found out that it was a traditional Syrian style cheese which this company introduced into the Bulgarian market

  • First of all, tha...no, wait...first of all, it doesn't matter how do you call them, Bulgaria produce a lot of amazing cheese!!! I moved to Sofia because of the food, I don't need to say more! Second, thank you ;-D About the chewing: obviously you chew everything before ingesting it, but usually (at least, the way I'm used to the term) you use chew explicitly instead of "eat" to point to the fact that the food is hard, or sticky, or gummy. Used that way is using it to give it a negative meaning. – motoDrizzt Jun 20 '17 at 19:21
  • Finally...you seems to know Bulgarian. Would you send me to hell if I 'd ask you to write on their fb page to about this cheese, to ask them the way they think it's best eaten? – motoDrizzt Jun 20 '17 at 19:22
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    I speak Bulgarian, but I don't have a Facebook account, sorry. And yes, I agree that Bulgaria has tons of amazing cheese. The only way to forget it is to try the cured meats :) – rumtscho Jun 20 '17 at 19:30
  • "sadly", I'm vegetarian :-D But Bulgaria has so much good food that I can't complain at all :-) – motoDrizzt Jun 21 '17 at 6:46
  • Hi @motoDrizzt, this addition you found out was great. In fact, I would say it is so good, it deserves to be its own answer (and probably even the accepted one). It is much better that you answer your own question in this case, now that you got the info - as a side effect, you will certainly get upvotes, too. And I don't mind removing the checkmark from here and placing it on your own answer, since it is more precise. – rumtscho Jun 21 '17 at 13:50
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Pleten means knitted/braided, and indeed it is not unusual to see such a cheese made of relatively thin strings braided into a braid; often smoked:

enter image description here source

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The answer from user rumtscho ♦ put me on the right track so, as now I had a way to contact the producer company, I wrote them an email asking the same question I posted here: what's the idea behind it, and how should it be eaten?

They replied me back (quite quickly, too), and this is their answer:

The kind of cheese that you bought is called Shelal -it is Arabic cheese and it is very specific.

It is hard at the beginning and salty -the saltiness will decrease if you separate it into strings and soak it in water. This way it gets softer. When softer it starts dividing into strings more easily.

Then you may season it with olive oil and some dry spices. You may also put it inside Arabic bread or two slices of bread with some olive oil and toast it. Enjoy!

Needless to say it went straight from its bag into a bowl full of water after, like, 30 seconds :-D


It has now soaked for nearly 24 hours and yes, it has changed quite a bit. There are parts of it which are still hard, but the saltiness is balancing well and it is becoming way softer. Note that I prefer to err on the side of safety, so I'm soaking it into the fridge; maybe outside of the fridge it would soften faster, dunno.

As of now, it is already quite good. It's like...it has the consistence of a braided mozzarella but tastes like a yellow cheese, quite interesting.

But...I'm not sure if it's worth the hassle. Ok, as I said it's interesting and good, so from that point of view it's worth it. But on the other hand after having put it into the water I automatically renamed it "Ikea cheese", as you buy it disassembled and you have to reassemble it back yourself :-D

It could make a lot of sense, actually, the fact that it can be bought in jars (or maybe it must be bought in jars, and I've been able instead to buy only a couple of pieces thanks to my mastering of Bulgarian language; that is, I know nothing of it so shop owners usually sell me whatever I ask :-D)

Once bought the entire jar, it will always be at hand reach; moreover it should be easy to transport, restoring it requires just a bowl and some water, so I can see it a perfect fit for people traveling with a motorhome.

Finally -and I'll update the post as soon as I try to do it- being mostly dry it should be perfect for topping home made pizza, as it will not soak the dough.

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Broadly speaking from my limited experience - I've no experience with Bulgarian cheese and can't even sort out which item in your picture is applicable, since "cheese in a jar" that's not already grated (and often terrible) is not something I have experienced:

Most cheeses that are so hard they are difficult to cut are grated or powdered and then put on other food as a seasoning, or cooked into a sauce.

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Sounds similar to caciotta, which is braided, often smoked and chewy. But caciotta doesn't require any soaking. Also caciocavallo is similar. It seems to me that, if indeed it wasn't already a typical bukgarian cheese, that company got inspired by these two Italian cheese. Obviously it could be syrian as well, as at least some of the cheese must be very old and prepared in large areas since millenia. As curiosity, Caciocavallo (kashkaval in Bulgary ) has etimology that makes sense in italian, but perhaps also in Bulgary kash means cheese and kaval horse. (from the stocking of the cheese as it is riding).

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