Beijingers can get a bit fanatical about their snacks – nowhere more so than at Niujie, where the locals are positively mad for them. One good place to find some traditional Muslim bites is the snack vendors inside Niujie Supermarket, where, on the ground floor, you can follow the queues to vendors selling a variety of moreish treats.
Among the Muslim community’s best-known sweets is niangao, a kind of glutinous rice cake layered with red bean and lotus seed pastes. You can pick some up at Baiji Niangao (白记年糕) or Yibaoheye Zenggao (伊宝荷叶甑糕), both of which sell niangao by weight. Baiji also sells freshly made yuanxiao (glutinousrice balls) with a variety of fillings, including hawthorn berry (shanzha), scented osmanthus flower (shenjinguihua) and the classic black sesame seed (heizhima). But probably the most irresistible offering of all is Yibaoheye’s bean cakes, which you can buy individually or in a box, and are so good they positively melt in your mouth.
Meanwhile, the supermarket sells an intriguing array of imports from Muslim regions: bountiful dried and preserved dates and fruits from Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as whole shelves dedicated to chocolate bars and biscuits from the Middle East.