Queijo Coalho or queijo-de-coalho – literally ‘rennet cheese’ – is a firm but very lightweight cheese that is common in Northeastern Brazil. The cheese has an almost ‘squeaky’ texture when one bites into it. One of its main characteristics is the resistance to heat, which is the reason why it can be grilled and toasted.
Therefore, Queijo Coalho is a popular and cheap snack for beach-goers in Brazil, where walking vendors grill rectangular slabs of it in hand-held charcoal ovens. The typical street food is most commonly served on a sewer with a sprinkling of oregano and garlic-flavored sauce or molasses. But the curd cheese itself is also used in different ways in many other traditional dishes in the Northeast of Brazil such as Baião-de-dois.
Where The Cheese Comes From
The general production of cheese in the Northeast of Brazil dates back to the foundations of the first farms in the northeastern backlands, but reference to Queijo Coalho first appeared in the second half of the 18th century. It is estimated that the melted cheese has been produced for over 150 years having its roots in ‘matulão’ – a pouch made of animal stomach that was used by travellers as storage containers for milk. After a while, the milk in the poaches would coagulate and thereby produce a dough which, in turn, gave rise to the curd cheese.
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Queijo Coalho by Daniel Cukier, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Iaiá Bistrô by Marcelo Träsel, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0