Exploring the Flavors of Tianjin: A Guide to the Top 10 Traditional Foods to Try

Enjoy the delicious street food and traditional dishes of Tianjin, China, with this list of the top ten foods to try while visiting the city. Discover the rich culinary culture and history of the city through its food, from Tianjin-style Fried Rice to Roujiamo.

Tianjin, in China’s northeastern region, is well-known for its delicious and diverse street food. Visitors to the city can expect to find a wide variety of traditional dishes, many of which have a long history and are unique to the region. In this article, we will look at the top ten foods to try while in Tianjin. Each food item will be introduced with its Chinese name, history, taste, and preparation method, as well as the main ingredients used.

1. Tianjin-style Fried Rice (炒饭)

Tianjin-style Fried rice is a dish made with fluffy rice that is pan-fried with various ingredients such as diced meat, vegetables, and eggs. It is well-known for its savory flavor and unique chewiness. The dish has a long history dating back to the early twentieth century, when street vendors in Tianjin popularized it. The dish’s origins can be traced back to the late Qing dynasty, when Tianjin was an important port city and its streets were packed with migrant workers in need of a cheap and easy meal to fuel them throughout their long working days. The dish quickly became popular among the locals, and it eventually made its way into the residents’ homes.

The key to making the perfect Tianjin-style Fried Rice is to use high-quality rice that has been cooked and cooled down so that it does not clump together when pan-fried. The rice is then stir-fried with a variety of ingredients, including diced meat, vegetables, and eggs, and is seasoned with soy sauce and other seasonings to give it a savory flavor. The dish is traditionally served with a sprinkle of green onions on top and can be eaten as a main course or as a side dish.

2. Tianjin-style Baozi (狗不理包子)

Tianjin-style Baozi is a traditional Chinese steamed bun with a variety of fillings, most commonly pork and cabbage. Baozi are famous for their fluffy texture and savory flavor. The history of baozi in Tianjin can be traced back to the Ming dynasty, when it was a popular food among the city’s working-class residents. Baozi is a classic Tianjin street food that is frequently sold by street vendors.

To make baozi, a wheat flour dough is first prepared, then filled with a variety of fillings, such as pork and cabbage, and steamed. The steaming process gives the baozi its fluffy texture while also cooking the filling. The baozi can be eaten on its own or dipped in a variety of sauces to enhance its flavor.

3. Tianjin-style Fried Dough Twist (麻花)

Tianjin-style Fried Dough Twist, also known as “Mahua,” is a popular Tianjin street food made from wheat flour. The dough is twisted into various shapes before being deep-fried. The dough is then coated with sesame seeds or sugar and served with a variety of fillings, such as sweet or savory. Mahua dates back to the Ming dynasty, when it was a popular snack among Tianjin residents.

Mahua is made by combining wheat flour, water, and vegetable oil into a dough. The dough is then twisted into various shapes and deep-fried until golden brown. After deep-frying, the Mahua can be coated with sesame seeds or sugar to give it a crispy texture and sweet flavor. It can be eaten as a snack on its own or filled with savory or sweet fillings.

4. Ear-hole fried cake (耳朵眼炸糕)

Tianjin Erduo Bing is a traditional snack from Tianjin. It gets its name from a street called Ear-Hole street in the Beidaguan neighborhood, where it was first sold. The dish has been around for over 80 years, and was started by a man named Liu Wanchun, who would sell it from a street cart. Eventually, as his business grew, he rented a space and opened a shop called Liu’s Fried Cake Shop. His cakes became popular due to their high quality, reasonable prices and delicious flavor. The cakes are made from freshly leavened and kneaded glutinous rice dough, and filled with bean paste made from high-quality red beans. They have a golden and crispy exterior, and a sweet and tender filling with a lingering flavor.

5. Tianjin-style Seafood (海鲜)

Tianjin is famous for its delicious seafood dishes, such as stir-fried shrimp, steamed oysters, and braised fish. Seafood is typically prepared in a straightforward manner that emphasizes the natural flavors of the ingredients. This is due to the city’s proximity to the coast, which provides access to a wide variety of fresh seafood. Seafood restaurants and street vendors selling seafood dishes are common throughout the city.

Tianjin seafood dishes typically feature fresh seafood that is cooked quickly to preserve its natural flavors. It can be stir-fried with vegetables and seasonings, steamed, or braised with various sauces. The seafood is frequently served with rice and can be eaten as a main course or as a side dish.

6. Tianjin-style Meatballs (肉丸)

Tianjin-style Meatballs are made from ground pork, flour, and various seasonings. They are known for their savory flavor and are typically served in broth or with a dipping sauce. Meatballs have a long history in Chinese cuisine, with regional variations. Meatballs are frequently made in Tianjin with pork and various seasonings to give them a distinct flavor and texture.

To make Tianjin-style Meatballs, the pork is combined with flour and seasonings such as ginger, garlic, and soy sauce to form a dough. The dough is then formed into small balls and cooked in broth or deep-fried. To enhance the flavor of the cooked meatballs, serve them in a broth or with a dipping sauce. They are frequently eaten as a snack or as a main course.

7. Tianjin-style Fried Dough Sticks (油条)

Tianjin-style Fried Dough Sticks are a popular street food made from wheat flour, sugar, and vegetable oil that is deep-fried until golden brown. They are well-known for their crispy texture and sweet flavor. Fried dough sticks, or “youtiao” in Chinese, have been a popular breakfast food in China for centuries. It is a common street food sold by street vendors in Tianjin.

To make Fried Dough Sticks, combine flour, sugar, and yeast to make a dough, which is then deep-fried until golden brown. The fried dough sticks can be eaten on their own or dipped in soy milk or other liquids to enhance their flavor. They are frequently eaten for breakfast or as a snack.

8. Tianjin-style Pickled Vegetables (天津冬菜)

Tianjin-style Pickled vegetables are typically made from mustard greens and are pickled with a variety of seasonings and spices. They are known for their tangy flavor and are frequently served as a side dish or as a topping for other dishes. Pickling is a traditional method of preserving vegetables and is a popular way to enjoy seasonal vegetables all year. Pickled vegetables are commonly served as a side dish to accompany meat-based dishes in Tianjin.

Pickled vegetables are made by washing vegetables and then seasoning them with salt, vinegar, and spices. The vegetables are then pickled for several days before being consumed. Pickling imparts a tangy flavor to the vegetables while also preserving them for an extended period of time.

9. Tianjin-style Roujiamo (肉夹馍)

Tianjin-style Roujiamo is a Chinese sandwich made with braised pork and other ingredients such as cilantro and onions that is typically served in a baked flatbread. Roujiamo dates back to the Han dynasty, when it was a popular food for soldiers. Roujiamo is a popular street food in Tianjin, and it can be found being sold by street vendors all over the city.

To make roujiamo, the pork is first braised in a flavorful sauce until tender. The pork is then sandwiched between two pieces of baked flatbread, along with other ingredients like cilantro and onions. The sandwich is then heated and pressed to melt the ingredients together and create a unique and delicious flavor.

10. Tianjin-style Fried Milk (炸牛奶)

Tianjin-style Fried Milk is a dessert made by deep-frying a battered mixture of milk, flour, and eggs. The result is a sweet, creamy, and crispy treat that can be enjoyed on its own or with a variety of toppings such as sweetened condensed milk or fruit. Fried milk is a traditional Chinese dessert that is widely available in Tianjin’s dessert shops and street vendors.

To make Fried Milk, a mixture of milk, flour, and eggs is prepared and then deep-fried. The deep-frying process gives the Fried Milk a crispy texture while also cooking the mixture through. Once cooked, it can be served plain or with a variety of toppings to enhance the flavor. It is a sweet and delicious dessert that is ideal for finishing a meal or as a mid-day snack.


Tianjin’s food scene is full of surprises, from savory to sweet, traditional to modern. The top ten foods highlighted in this article are a must-try for anyone visiting the city, as they provide a taste of the city’s distinct culinary culture. From the savory and unique chewiness of Tianjin-style Fried Rice () to the sweet and crispy treat of Tianjin-style Fried Milk (), these dishes offer a wide range of flavors that will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.

When visiting Tianjin, make sure to check out the city’s street food scene and try some of these traditional dishes. Not only will you be able to sample some delicious food, but you will also gain a better understanding and appreciation of the city’s culture and history. And who knows, you might even come back with some new cooking skills.

Further reading

Here are a few URLs that you may find useful for further reading on the traditional foods of Tianjin, China:

  1. “cchatty: Learn Chinese and Make Friends”www.cchatty.com. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  2.  China Business Guide. Singapore: China Knowledge Press. 2004. p. 330. ISBN 9789814163002.
  3.  “最早「津菜」館聚慶成:創立津菜飯莊基本模式” (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  4. Nield, Robert (2015). China’s Foreign Places: The Foreign Presence in China in the Treaty Port Era, 1840–1943. HKU Press.
  5.  “Concession Life: Exploring Tianjin’s Famous Colonial Buildings”www.echinacities.com. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  6.  China Knowledge Press, p. 330.
  7.  Thompson, Hugh; Lane, Katherine (2012). DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: China. London: Penguin. p. 77. ISBN 9780756684303.
  8.  “Nanshi Food Street, a food paradise in Tianjin”China.org.cn. January 5, 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  9.  Leffman, David; Lewis, Simon; Atiyah, Jeremy (2003). China. Rough Guides. p. 159. ISBN 9781843530190.
  10. Santangelo, Jon. “6 Delicious Traditional Dishes from Tianjin”Culture Trip. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  11. Santangelo, Jon. “A Brief History of Ear Hole Fried Cake”Culture Trip. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  12. Santangelo, Jon. “6 Delicious Traditional Dishes from Tianjin”Culture Trip. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  13.  Santangelo, Jon. “6 Delicious Traditional Dishes from Tianjin”Culture Trip. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  14. Santangelo, Jon. “6 Delicious Traditional Dishes from Tianjin”Culture Trip. Retrieved 2021-01-18.

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