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Tianjin Dining

Tianjin food and gourmet are renowned throughout China, and not only the traditional Tianjin snacks, but the cuisines from other regions of China can also be found. Food Street is a fairly good place for you to sample these cross-cultural Chinese dishes. These traditional and famed snacks cannot be missed should you ever come to visit this charming municipality.

Goubuli Steamed Stuffed Bun (Goubuli Baozi)

Goubuli's stuffed buns are known for their generous filling, which is succulent but not greasy.

This famous snack was created during the late Qing Dynasty by a native of Wuqing County, who had the nickname "Dogy". At the age of 14, Dogy left home and came to Tianjin, where he was apprenticed to a restaurant specializing in stuffed buns.

A diligent and honest young man, he eventually opened a shop of his own. As his stuffed buns tasted better and had a unique flavour, they attracted an increasing number of customers. As time went by, his nickname became known far and wide. Later, people changed "Dogy" to "Goubuli", which literally means "the Dogy who doesn't talk", because he was often too busy to speak to his customers. Then, eventually, his buns were called by the same name.

Today, with its main outlet located at Shandong Road, Heping District, the Goubuli Bun Shop has developed into a corporation with 89 branch restaurants opened in Tianjin and two dozen other Chinese cities, provinces and regions. In addition to over 90 varieties of stuffed bun, its restaurants also offer more than 200 dishes.

Ear-Hole Fried Cake (Erduoyan Zhagao)

The Ear-Hole Fried Cake is another one of the famous traditional Tianjin snacks. It derived its name from the narrow Ear-Hole Street in Tianjin's Beidaguan, where the shop selling it was located.

The Ear-Hole Fried Cake has a history of more than 80 years. lt was introduced by a man named Liu Wanchun, who peddled it on a single-wheel barrow from street to street.

When his business prospered, he rented a room and opened Liu's Fried Cake Shop. Because the fried cake he made was of high quality, reasonable in price and had a special flavour, it soon became a popular snack.

The cake is made of carefully leavened and kneaded glutinous rice dough. The filling is bean paste made with good-qualified red beans. The pastry of the finished cake is golden in colour, crisp and crunchy, while the filling is tender and sweet with a lingering flavour.

Fried Dough Twist (Ma hua)

Although plain in look, this queue-shaped fried dough is by no means easy to make. Each bar of dough is made with quality flour and then fried in peanut oil.

The bars are usually stuffed with a variety of fillings, most often the waxy tasting beanpaste (Dou sha) - a taste for only the hardy.

Since it can be preserved for several months, you can take some of this crispy specialty back home to share with family.

Chatang
Chatang is Tianjin's traditional snack. It is made of baked millet and glutinous millet flour. The soup is made by pouring boiling water to the mixed flour and then adding sugar or brown sugar.

The way chatang being served at stalls is as attractive as the soup itself. The water is boiled in a big copper pot whose spout is usually fashioned into a dragon's head. While making the soup, the skilled chatang maker holds severaI bowls in one hand and pours the boiling water into them from quite a distance.

Guobacai

A snack of strong local flavour, guobacai is a sort of pancake made of millet and mung bean flour. The pancake is sliced and cooked in the sauce made of sesame oil, chopped ginger, soy sauce, preserved beancurd and green onion. Guobacai is often served along with fried dough and sesame cakes.

Tangdui

It is a custom in Tianjin to eat tangdui on the eve of the Chinese New Year. The most popular tangdui is made of hawthorn berry. Hawthorn berries have their seeds removed and are skewered on a thin bamboo stick, then dipped in hot syrup. When they turn cool, the stringed berries wrapped in crystal sugar look like beautiful stone beans pungently sweet and sour.

Sometimes, the hollowed hawthorn berries are filled with red bean paste, walnut and melon seeds. Today, in addition to hawthorn, a wide variety of tangdui has been developed, including water chestnut, tangerine, apple, pear and crab-apple, etc.

Where to go:

Food Street (Shipin Jie) is like a shopping mall, only full of food. There are two levels and about 50 restaurants, all under one roof. Some are dirt cheap street stalls, others are more like sweet shops, some are top of the range restaurants with prices to match. Make sure you check prices before you order - they're rarely displayed. There are plenty of good dumpling restaurants and you can also eat dog, snake and most of the more unusual Chinese dishes.