Tumurkhuyag Urtnasan cheesemaster since 1995,
doyen of Mongolia’s rural artisan cheesemakers
Pioneering Cheesemaking in Mongolia
Tumurkhuyag Urtnasan didn’t always make cheese. In 1992, right after the fall of communism in Mongolia, he was a vice governor in the Altanbulag district, a very sparsely populated region in the north near Khustai National Park. He was working with the UN to figure out how local nomads could benefit from development projects, when a visitor from the Netherlands mentioned the idea of a dairy processing plant—a milk outlet for local herders that could turn out value-added products. Leaving his government job, Tumurkhuyag decided to learn how to make cheese. After spending 42 days apprenticing under a Dutch cheese expert making gouda-style wheels, Urtnasan spent years trying to standardize the gouda recipe to fit with Mongolian cow’s milk.
But after much experimentation, Tumurkhuyag solidified a recipe for his Khustai Gouda in 1998—and it hasn’t changed since. Through his work at the cheese plant and in collaboration with the Mongolian Artisan Cheesemakers Union, Tumurkhuyag has been at the forefront of a movement to transform Mongolia’s high-quality milk into European style cheese.