Tianjin is proud of its delicious snacks that are renowned throughout China. So, make sure you don’t leave Tianjin without sampling some of its famous cakes and pastries. Among the great variety of snacks, the most renowned are the so-called “Four Unique Delicacies of Tianjin”, which include Goubuli Steamed Stuffed Buns, 18th Street Fried Dough Twists, Erduoyan Fried Rice Cake and Tianjin-style Jianbing.
1. Goubuli Steamed Stuffed Bun (Goubuli Baozi)
Baozi, or steamed buns with filling, is a popular staple food in North China. Goubuli, founded in 1858, is the most famed brand of its kind. Gaobuli baozi, the most famous Tianjin snack, are known for their savory taste and exquisite ingredients, such as semi-leavened dough, and how they turn out, with exactly eighteen wrinkles on each bun. Goubuli is also sometimes transcribed as Go Believe (literally: “dogs don’t pay attention/dogs ignore”).
2. Fried Dough Twist (Mahua)
When talking about delicacies in Northern China’s Tianjin, people may initially think of mahua, or fried dough twist. Made of flour, sesame, walnut, peanuts and sweet-scented osmanthus, the snack usually comes deep fried. A variety of flavors are available regardless if you prefer to eat sweet or salty. The most famous brand is “18th Street Fried Dough Twists”, because the shop originated from the 18th Street of the old town.
Tianjin’s Hexi district hosts a museum of mahua, where you can learn about the history of the fried food and get a glimpse of how it is made on the factory line.
3. Erduoyan Fried Rice Cake (Erduoyan Zhagao)
Erduoyan fried rice cake is another one of the famous traditional Tianjin snacks. It 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.
Erduoyan fried rice cake was first made on a little handcart but eventually developed into one of the most famous foods in Tianjin. The street snack was first consumed during the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when Liu Wanchun pushed a wheelbarrow and peddled the food from street to street. He later rented a room in the Erduoyan hutong, a narrow alley. It’s thus widely known as the Erduoyan fried rice cake.
Jianbing, or fried crepe topped with egg and garnish, is a Chinese snack. Tianjin-style jianbing, also called jianbing guozi, is made by pouring batter (made of rice or beans) onto a circular hotplate. After carefully spreading the batter with a spatula, an egg is cracked on top. Green onions, a crispy cracker and any other ingredients that the consumers like are added before the snack is folded into a tidy pocket.
Jianbing has seen international fame in the US recently. New York-born Brian Goldberg opened his “Mr. Bing” kiosk out of his personal fondness of the Chinese food, which became an instant hit among New Yorkers.