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  • Melissa Orquiza

Yak Milk Candies? Seriously? (And the connection with Handel and the Black Crowes)

Yes. We humans are inventive and pretty nuts… so much so that edible ingenuity is always on the horizon. Prince, although vegan, had a predilection towards yak milk (who knew?) and was partially the inspiration behind this crazy post. Check out his favorite foods.

Yaks (Bos grunniens) were domesticated somewhere on the Qinghai- Tibetan Plateau of Tibet around 3000-2500 B.C., and then they spread north and south throughout western China to Mongolia and beyond. Just to get my time travel bearings, here are some significant discoveries. (I almost always need some sort of context. We all do, right?)

Significant people:

Imhotep, first known architect, physician and engineer in Ancient history.Gilgamesh, fifth king of the First Dynasty of Uruk, immortalized in the world's first literary work the Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 26th century BC).Khufu, king of Egypt, builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Inventions and Discoveries

Pottery develops in Americas (30th century BC).c. 3000 BC: Potter's wheel appears in Mesopotamia.c. 2300 BC: Metals are used in Northern Europe.Chinese record a comet.Building of the Great Pyramid of Giza (26th century BC).

So, while the Tibetans are figuring out how to domesticate yaks like diary cows, humanity’s first literary work “Epic of Gilgamesh” is written, The Great Pyramid was being conceptualized, pottery was in the early stages of industrialization due to the invention of the potter’s wheel, and the Chinese record a comet.

Back to Yak milk. We’re all pretty familiar with Tibetan tea, the unctuous concoction of butter, half and half or milk, salt, with black tea. It’s like the Tibetan grandpa of bulletproof coffee. So, the yak’s relative, the water buffalo or carabao, as named in the Philippines, is capable of producing more than 4 gallons of milk per day. It’s a hardy animal, used to plow rice fields, utilized as a beast of burden, much like oxen in North America. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is often depicted riding a water buffalo.

Back to the edible ingenuity of humans. Four gallons of milk per day is insane…no matter where you live in the world. So, based on the Spanish influences in the country, they started making pastillas de leche with carabao milk. For those unfamiliar with pastillas de leche, it’s fresh milk reduced with sugar and butter, and solidified with powdered milk.

It’s like Cristina Tosi’s use of milk powder for her delicious, nuanced throwbacks to childhood cereal milk creations, but with a purist, Spanish, Asian twist.

The resultant candy is rich, creamy, melts in your mouth and hardly found outside of the country, unless you have an amazing cousin who decides to bring it to you (thanks, cousin Eric!). Imagine a delicious, Southern butter cake flavor without the heaviness of the cake flour or the cloy of too much artificial vanilla.


Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher (often depicted riding a water buffalo).

“Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.”

After reading this quote, for some reason, this song popped in my head. I haven’t heard it in years so was refreshingly thrilled to hear it still stands the test of time.

And of course, the homage to the water buffalo. Since there’s really no water buffalo music, I figured Handel would recompense.

Handel: Water Music, Suite No. 3

Lovely background music while marveling at the indomitable urge to create seeming to span all time. So, don’t knock it ’til you try it because the culture of politics and time are incongruous to the humanity that binds us all.

Thanks for reading! Drop me a line if have any wacky ideas you’d like to discuss.

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