Hungry in the Streets of Tianjin – Traditional Food and Snacks

Hungry in the Streets of Tianjin – Traditional Food and Snacks
By Imogen Rogerson-Costello ,


After telling any Chinese person that you’re moving to Tianjin, their first response will most likely be “you’re going to get fat.” That’s because Tianjin is well known across China for its dumplings, sweet cakes and fried dough sticks. And with so many street vendors all over the city peddling such a variety of traditional Tianjin specialities, it’s definitely easy to fill up on these tasty treats.

1) Jian Bing Guo Zi (煎饼果子) – Tianjin Pancake

Known as Tianjin Pancakes, Jian Bing Guo Zi are a savoury snack sold at street stalls all over Tianjin. A thin pancake is made using a mixture of batter and eggs with a variety of seasonings, such as spring onion and pepper. You can choose to fill the pancake with either a thin crust made of rice or soft fried dough sticks, either of which adds an interesting texture. Prepared on the spot with as much or as little chilli as you choose, Jian Bing Guo Zi are a special Tianjin treat. Jian Bing Guo Zi stalls are often cleverly positioned outside of clubs such as Scarlet and normally only cost 4 RMB, making them the perfect late-night snack.


2) Ma Hua (麻花) - Fried Dough Twists

Made by frying bars of dough and then adding a variety of tasty fillings such as bean paste, Ma Hua are snack-food favourite in Tianjin. Although made with soft dough, these fried twists are actually crispy in texture, with a variety of different aromatic and sweet flavours. Due to this crunchy texture, Ma Hua remain edible for months, serving not only as tasty snacks but also as last minute offerings for unexpected houseguests. Although Ma Hua can be found in convenience stores across Tianjin, Guifaxiang 18th Street (桂发祥十八街麻花) is the most famous for these delicious and aromatic fried dough twists.

3) Erduoyan Zhagao (耳朵眼炸糕) – Ear-Hole Fried Cakes

Erduoyan Zhagao, translated as Ear-Hole Fried Cakes, are another of Tianjin’s sweet local specialities. Don’t let the odd name put you off – these glutinous rice cakes were named after the street where they were first sold 80 years ago by a man named Liu Wanchun, from a small street stall on Er Duo Yan Hu Tong (Ear-Hole Street). But Ear-Hole Cakes can now be found all over Tianjin. Sold by street vendors as well as in restaurants, these popular cakes are made using leavened and glutinous rice dough. With a crunchy, golden pastry outside and a sweet, flavourful bean-paste filling, Erduoyan Zhagao are bound to satisfy any sweet tooth.

4) Chatang (茶汤) – Tea Soup

Although literally translated as “tea soup,” Chatang is actually not made from tea or soup at all. Local to Tianjin and Beijing, Chatang is made from sorghum flour, baked millet and glutinous millet flour. The mixed flour is usually prepared first and hot water is poured over the mixture to serve, then a selection of sweet toppings and white or brown sugar is added. The result is a warm, sweet, paste-like dish – perfect comfort food for those cold days wandering the streets of Tianjin. Yet it’s not only the flavour that attracts people to try Chatang, but also the way it is served. A stall serving Chatang is easily distinguished by a large, copper kettle; a skilled server can use the kettle to pour hot water into a number of dishes simultaneously from a long distance. Chatang servers are usually keen to display their skills, putting on a show as well as a serving up a tasty snack. As Chatang is a traditional food with a long history, Ancient Culture Street is the perfect place to find it. Just keep your eye out for a huge kettle and a small crowd surrounding an over-enthusiastic server. 

Ancient Culture Street (古文化街)View In Map
Address: Dongbei Jiao, Hebei District, Tianjin
地址: 河北区东北角 


5) Bao Zi (包子) – Steamed Dumplings

Most Tianjin locals will tell you that the staples of the local cuisine are Jiao Zi and Bao Zi (fried and steamed dumplings). Although Jiao Zi and Bao Zi can be eaten as a meal, they are also a quick and delicious snack. Filled with a variety of savoury fillings such as pork and mushrooms, dumplings come in a variety of different sizes and are a quick and easy option for the dinner table or on-the-go. Although sold from many different street stalls and restaurants across Tianjin, the most reputable place to buy Bao Zi is Gou Bu Li. Originally set up by a man nicknamed “Doggy” in the late Qing dynasty, Gou Bu Li literally translates as “the dog that doesn’t talk,” since “Doggy” was often too busy serving his popular dumplings to talk to his customers. Although Gou Bu Li’s fame and reputation seem to come mainly from its long history rather than its Bao Zi, the fact that there are many branches in Tianjin reflects its continued popularity. Gou Bu Li Bao Zi are served in attractive wooden boxes, and service is quick and convenient.

Gou Bu Li Restaurant View In Map
Address: 16 Jinlong Apartment, Shuishang Beilu, close to Tianjin Water Park, Nankai District, Tianjin
地址: 天津南开区水上北路津龙公寓16号
Tel: 022 2337 1999 

Shipin Jie (食品街) – Food Street
Although there are plenty of places to find street food around Tianjin, Shipin Jie is an ideal place to treat your taste buds. Similar to a shopping centre but wholly consisting of food outlets, Shipin Jie consists of two floors and over 50 restaurants. Ranging from small and cheap food stalls to large and more expensive restaurants, all of Tianjin’s famed culinary delights can be found here, as well as other dishes from across China. You can sample anything from Bao Zi and Ma Hua to dog and snake dishes. Because of its variety of delicious and unusual food, Shipin Jie is popular and always bustling with activity. You can while away a good few hours by moving from stall to stall, sampling the many different snacks (or just taking a look if you don’t feel like trying the more unusual offerings) and soaking in the lively atmosphere. 

Shipin Jie食品街View In Map
Address: Bldg. D, Shipin Jie, Qinghe Jie Heping District, Tianjin
地址: 天津市和平区清河街食品街D座
Tel: 022 5899 7866
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 24 hours

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Keywords: street food tianjin snacks tianjin traditional food tianjin


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