Wen Yu Nailao

20 Nov

When I see a line of locals queuing up for something, my first instinct is to get in the line and buy whatever it is they are lining up for. This small little shop on famous Nanluoguxiang hutong caught my eye the first time I wandered up there, because of the 20 or 30 people streaming from the shop door and down the lane. I was curious to see what the fuss was about, and watched as people came from the shop with plastic bags filled with tubs of something. So I jumped in the line while friends waited for me. It took about 10 minutes of patient queuing, with my curiosity growing about what was in store for me…would I be buying some obscure chicken feet delicacy or a favourite type of insect meal? The reality was far more palatable.

Only a few tables inside this Beijing dairy snack shop were chocked full of people eating a white custard-type dessert – some plain, others with red bean and others with mango. Behind the counter stacks of the little tubs were piled high, although steadily diminishing. I pointed to the red bean one, paid my 8rmb, and squeezed my way back past those who were still lining up for one. I couldn’t wait to try it, with the first spoonful a mixture of sweet taste, smooth texture and chewy red beans. It was heaven in a cup.

Later, with more research on what this delightful dessert pot is, I found out it’s actually a type of cheese. Wen Yu Nailao (Wen Yu Cheese) sells imperial dairy snacks, but if you are expecting a cheesy taste, you won’t get it. The owners mix milk with sugar and rice wine, bake them in wood, then cool it down with ice. The name translates literally as double skin milk. Apparently it takes around three hours to make. It took me about three minutes to gobble it up!!

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