Sūrelis: The Candy Bar Made Of Cheese!
This article will examine the sweet, chocolate-covered cheese bar known in Lithuania as sūrelis. It was only when I came to Lithuania that I discovered anything like it – and as far as I know, I don’t think it exists outside of Central and Eastern Europe…
For those who don’t know about sūrelis, it’s a sweet cheese product, covered in chocolate, and packaged like a candy bar. But, since it’s a dairy product, you’ll find it at the supermarket in a refrigerator.
Different names in different countries
While I don’t know if there’s a direct and proper translation into English, Wikipedia says that this item can be called a curd snack, cottage cheese bar or curd cheese bar in English. In Russian, it’s apparently called СЫРОК (Syrok), and is made of what the Russian’s call творог (tvorog). Google Translate says that this is ‘cottage cheese’ in English but some argue it’s not actually cottage cheese and is a unique dairy product of its own. In Hungary, it’s known as Túró Rudi.
My Lithuanian friend said that when he was living in the Netherlands, he helped import them for sale in Amsterdam. Unsure of an official, accurate English translation, he called them cheesecake bars. Independently of my friend’s experiences, I also thought to myself that they should be called cheesecake bars. Interestingly, the food blog “That’s What She Had” also refers to it as a cheesecake bar.
I think calling it a cheesecake bar in English makes it sound less strange and foreign….since I think most of the English-speaking world is already familiar with cheesecake.
An unknown origin
So where did this treat originally come from? Well, according to Hungary Today, the earliest form of this treat appeared in Russia. I, unfortunately, can’t find any more detail than that. With a few sources mentioning Soviet Russia, we can assume that it was developed during this period of Russian history.
In one Delfi article, translated from Lithuanian to English, the author also admits to having difficulties finding details about the origin. However, they say that production technology for this type of product was described in the Soviet Union in the forties, and so it’s assumed that the first mass production of these treats in factories also began at this time.
The article adds that the first automated production line of surelis was reportedly created in Lithuania, which is pretty cool!
Still big in Lithuania
Apparently, sūrelis reached peak popularity in the 20th century, in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the treat is apparently still quite popular in Baltic countries, as well as in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia – oh, and even in some countries of Central Asia. That Delfi article adds that Westerners are a little hesitant and uncertain about this product – something I can relate to.
One thing is for certain though, sūrelis is still big in Lithuania. Doing research on this topic, I discovered that my local Rimi has nearly an entire refrigerator unit devoted to sūrelis, with SO many different brands and flavors. There’s sūrelis with poppy seeds, sūrelis with a condensed milk filling, or a fruit filling, or chocolate sūrelis, and the list goes on and on. There are even vegan substitutes made of tofu!
Have you had sūrelis before? What do you think of it? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below!