My 89-year-old grandmother’s name is Lu, and so is the mastermind behind this very local Minnan sweets and pastry shop, Lu Nai Nai (Lu Ama, in Minnan dialect). In our own family dialect, I call my Italian grandmother Nonnie, which is close enough to Nai Nai to complete the sweep.
There are two Grandma Lu’s shops within a couple busy street-food blocks of each other, right in the thick of downtown’s main plazas. A couple of young guys run the very yellow glass pastry counters, from which you can take away Western-inflected popovers stuffed with whipped cream and chopped mango, pineapple, or a mix of the two.
More interesting and local is Grandma Lu’s creative version of milk tea, xiao xian cao. This hearty brew is floating with all sorts of goodies, including sweet red beans the consistency of boston baked beans but with a charro-like savory aspect, satisfyingly chewy golden raisins, and dark medicinal grass jelly cubes made by boiling the grass in simple syrup and gelatin. The irregularly shaped cubes take on the wobble of panna cotta, and pair with the tea’s tannin better than the generic HK-style milk tea jellies do. Grandmothers, wherever they are, have always known just how to warm our bellies on chilly evenings.
For more Kulangsu (Gulangyu) travel ideas, see the new Kulangsu Island Visitor’s Guide.