;ine Visitors searching for the city’s cultural heart need look no further than its
distinctive cuisine. Not widely known outside China, the regional specialties reflect
long-held traditions as well as an appetite for reinvention.
By Jason Beerman
A TASTE OF TIANJIN
; ;;;; ;; 15 ;;;;;;; in north China, Tianjin bears the
hallmarks of a burgeoning global metropolis: glittering
skyline, streets bustling with people and commerce, a pervasive spirit of self-confidence. The country’s third-largest
urban area also has its own varied and vibrant cuisine,
well-known within China but undiscovered elsewhere.
The local fare in Tianjin, just 30 minutes from Beijing
by high-speed rail, tends to be overshadowed by that of
the capital. But Tianjin’s rich heritage, dating from the
15th century, o;ers an intriguing look at the evolving story
of China, evident in the city’s recreated Ming dynasty
Drum Tower and the Qing dynasty Confucian temple—
pockets of tradition amid the modern cityscape.
Adding to its personality and stemming from its role
as a port city for foreign concessions from 1860 to 1947,
Tianjin’s preserved colonial-era buildings give certain
neighbourhoods the feel of Old World Europe. But whereas
Hong Kong and Macau developed true fusion cuisines
during periods of colonial rule, Tianjin’s concessions were
short-lived and self-contained, and had little direct e;ect
on the city’s cuisine.
Its concession period did, however, instil an outward-looking focus and evolutionary zeal. The city is not afraid
of experimentation and reinvention, and its cuisine reflects
this flexibility. China’s eight major culinary traditions
developed independently over time in response to regional
variances in resources and climate. Tianjin’s o;erings are
a subset of Shandong cuisine, found in the eponymous
coastal province to the south and celebrated for strong
flavours, imaginative seafood dishes and a wide range
of staple vegetables, some cultivated only in this part
of China. Rooted in the general principles of its parent
are made using
dough for a
thin, firm skin.