Cuisine: Traditional Beijing desserts

Area: Nanluoguxiang

Price: 10-15 RMB

Walking down Nanluoguxiang at night, you’ll see plenty of brightly lit and not-good snack joints. One snack shop, however, stands out from the masses for two reasons: 1) it is actually old, and has plaques on the shopfront saying as much, and 2) there is always a large queue of happy-looking Chinese tourists outside.

Wen Yu Nailao could be translated as “Wen House Cheese,” but Chinese nailao and European cheese are very different animals. There is only really one type of nailao, which is milk curdled with rice wine. It’s not fermented or aged. It’s more like a loose, very soft custard, served cool and slightly sweetened – a refreshing summer dessert.

There’s a nod to nostalgia in the setup: you order at the ordering counter, and take your ticket over to the food counter. Like any great specialty shop, Wen Yu’s offerings are limited but perfect as they are: you can have your nailao plain, or topped with mango, red bean, or oats.

My mango-topped nailao was mild, gentle, and had just the right amount of sweetness. I really loved the texture, which reminded me of a full-fat yogurt: very rich and full-bodied. It mixed very nicely with the fresh, sweet mango. I bet the other toppings would be terrific too.

This is a great light, after-meal snack – but be warned, the shop opens at noon and stays open until everything sells out, so the earlier you get there the better!

And don’t forget to keep a lookout for 奶酪 signboards, because the snack is all over Beijing, though most stores aren’t as old as Wen Yu’s.

Wen Yu Nailao/文宇奶酪

49 Nanluoguxiang, at the entrance to Heizhima Hutong. Open 12 p.m. – late.

东城区南锣鼓巷49号(黑芝麻胡同口)。

Dianping page.

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