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Armenian String Cheese

I've recently discovered Armenian String Cheese -- for those of you who've never attempted a low-carb diet, string cheese is a little snack that's recommended as being lowish in fat and low in carbs, which is why I got to trying string cheese again as an adult, and I kind of liked it as a convenient snack. But last time I had it, I just found the average supermarket brand lacking in flavor, texture, and, well, stringy-ness. I remember it being better when I was a kid. So the next time I got the urge for string cheese, I bought the Sun-ni brand of Armenian string cheese, and it is worlds better than the standard stuff! Nice flavor, wonderfully stringy, and, well, fun to eat ;-)

Tonight I made a recipe suggested on the package, basically just the Armenian string cheese, stringed and stuffed inside a pita, then toasted in the toasted oven, and it was great! So simple, yet so good -- it reminded me of the cheese fatayar (sort of a Lebanese "empanada") they serve at a place I love in LA called Marouch.

Any other ideas on what to do with (good) string cheese? And what's with the little black seeds? Any brands to recommend?

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  1. I like this cheese too, and there isn't much that I know you can do with it. It really is a table cheese that I like to have with olives, basterma or soojoukh and some Armenian Cracker Bread or Choerag. I get mine at a Syrian store and never noticed the brand but will next time I buy some. The little black seeds are caraway seeds I think.

    1. The black seeds are nigella seeds and are used in Indian and some Middle-Eastern countries.
      My son loved it when he was small, and there was no Polly-O. I'm grateful that we had the real stuff, and you're lucky to have found it. The texture is moist and it even strings differently from the supermarket brands.
      As for recipes, I couldn't say, since we always ate it plain, but if no one replies, you could always google.
      I'd imagine you could melt in on vegetables and use it in many applications where mozzarella or another mild cheese would be used. That said, something more adventerous would be nice. Good luck, and enjoy!

      1. Thanks for the tips!

        I did a google search, and it appears most commercial string cheese is really mozzarella. The Armenian cheese, though, has a much more distinctive flavor than most other brands, so I'm not sure you could just exchange it for mozzarella in, say, lasagne. I'm wondering if there are any other Armenian or Lebanese recipes that call for it.

        1. Are you talking about Halloumi cheese? Grilling it is a popular option -- it holds its shape and you can eat it plain, as a side dish, or in a sandwich.

          1. I sometimes spread pesto on bagel halves, cover with string cheese (we use the Sun-ni brand), and broil to melt the cheese. Also, a friend mentions that she loves string cheese on her tuna melts.

            1. My grandmother is from Aleppo Syria, so I grew up delighting in this cheese. Although originally from Armenia, it is now called Halebi cheese (not a brand name). It is made fresh in middle eastern stores throughout the country, a true taste sensation, although I have eaten the packaged ones when I could not find the fresh. The unique flavor of the cheese (which is much like mozzerella cheese) comes from the milk being boiled with the nigella seed (also called black cumin). I also love the cheese stuffed into pita bread and melted in the oven. One Mother's Day, my son made me an omelet (the eggs mixed with the spice zatar (a combination of thyme, sesame, oregano and sumac purchased in the middle eastern store) or just sumac (which has a lemony taste). He served it with middle eastern sausage links which are made out of lamb and flavored either with allspice or cumin, with a bit of lemon squeezed over them when done. This is served with pita bread, and while most arabic people will eat pickled vegetables with every meal, I prefer the contrast of sweet watermelon. String cheese melted is generally too stringy to put over vegetables and my son overcame this problem by slicing the braid, rather than unravelling it. It remains my favorite Mother's Day meal.

              2 Replies
              1. re: dsquires

                You are so lucky that your son is so talented and has good taste, literally. I just came back from my favorite Middle Eastern market in Paterson, NJ and purchased some goodies. The girl at the counter told me to boil the "Meshallaeh Cheese" for 10 minutes to remove the saltiness ("Meshallaleh" probably means "Miscellaneous", right?) . Of course the cheese melted, but as soon as I took it out, it started to solidify. Yes, it was a mess. I'll never boil it again, rather give it a good cold rinse. This cheese reminded me of Armenian string cheese with the black nigella seeds. The taste of he cheese was still rich. I'm sorry now that I didn't pick up some pickled turnips. They were so good in my falafel. Since I did not grow up Middle Eastern, I am learning a little more and more about what to order and purchase. My recent trip to Turkey and Greece opened my horizons, especially the wonderful spices. I did pick some up at the Turkish Bazaar. I hope more readers of ChowHound share their foodiness so we can learn more. Gutes Essen!

                1. re: Higbees

                  " The girl at the counter told me to boil the "Meshallaeh Cheese" for 10 minutes to remove the saltiness ("Meshallaleh" probably means "Miscellaneous", right?) . Of course the cheese melted"

                  Haha sometimes I too am given culinary advice that common sense tells me will be a disaster. Boiling cheese for ten minutes is the silliest advice I've ever heard, and yet, in your situation I too would have given it a shot.

              2. Armenian string cheese (tel baneer) is best served with cucumber &/or tomato OR fruit such as oranges, watermelon or rockmelon (canteloupe). It can be eaten at any time of day.

                If you wish to eat is toasted in flat bread (pita bread), then you can add coarse paprika flakes, drind mint and olive oil. Toast on both sides then use paper towel to squash & gently breakup the toasted bread before serving. If eaten at breakfast, it can be accompanied with cinnamon & clove tea (fill the teapot with water, add black tea leaves, 1-2 cinnamon scrolls and 4-6 cloves.

                2 Replies
                1. re: staranise

                  Thank you for more insight on something so simple, yet so complex, but in a very good way. I still have some sumac and zatar left in my spice cabinet. I think I will defiinately look for the coarse paprika flakes next.. I love learning about Middle Eastern food; so fresh and delicious. Cinnamon is very healthy according to Dr. Oz, who is Turkish. I especially am enjoying the freshness of Israeli salad with the cucumbers and tomatoes. Recently I tried to make my own hummous. Not great, but OK. Yes, I did add Tahini, but I tried adding red bell pepper for more flavor. Yumm; olive oil, garlic, and lemon. I think mine was too thick and needed some water. My neighbor said I could take her mint from the herb pots anytime. Love, love, love the whole freshness and good flavor of my new found cuisine. I would love to find a genuine recipe for Armenian String Cheese with the black seeds. Anyone out there feel like sharing?

                  1. re: Higbees

                    If you would like to try my recipe for Armenian String Cheese here it is.

                    I start with a 1/2 pound of Muenster cheese, and 1 tablespoon water in the top of a double boiler. (Bring water to boil in the bottom pot of the double boiler first.)

                    Simmer for 5 mins. Mix cheese with a spoon and simmer 5 more mins. or until all the lumps have melted. (If you melt the cheese in a sauce pan instead of a dbl. boiler, use about a 1/3 cup of water.)

                    Place a colander on a sauce pan. Empty melted cheese into colander. Let drain. Sprinkle black fennel seeds between cheese. Pick up cheese and pull with hands to 18" long strip. Fold in half by bringing the two ends of cheese together Repeat pulling and folding the cheese in this manner until the cheese is a 1/4" in diam. Dip string cheese in cold brine.

                    If thinner strings are desired, remove from brine when the cheese is luke warm and separate strings. (The cheese may divided into very thin strings when like warm).

                    Keep cheese in brine for 30 mins. or until cold. Store in fridge covered if going to be used in a few days, or to store longer, place cheese in a glass jar and cover with brine.

                    FOR BRINE
                    For each cup of cold water, use 3 tablespoons of pure salt. Mix together and let the salt dissolve thoroughly in the water. There is more salt in string cheese brine than salted cheese brine, because string cheese is not salted first.

                    To serve, remove the string cheese from brine and rinse with cold water.

                    I like to eat it with Choerag (sweet roll), or on Armenian cracker bread. As staranise mentioned, with cucumbers and melons it great.

                    Good luck if you try!

                2. Grandma Sara's Frittata with Armenian String Cheese and Parsley

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Antilope

                    Now I know what I'm having for breakfast Sunday...and I have soujouk spice on hand. Excellent way to spice up a burger too!

                  2. I imagine this cheese melts well, I just discovered it and am planning to throw it on or under chicken breasts