I thought I’d post about food I ate when I was in Tianjin, China (30 minutes from Beijing) in 2010.
I won a scholarship from the Confucius Institute for a month long study in China of the Chinese language. I had passed Level 2 in the HSK and this qualified me for the scholarship as well as writing an essay about what I would do with the knowledge gained after (what else, food).
I arrived in Tianjin, a little bit unwary, cause I knew zero people and it wasn’t Beijing (where I had friends). It turned out to be a decent place to be in with tons of hidden gems.
Food was SO CHEAP, even cheaper than Beijing. My scholarship came with an allowance but I barely made a dent in it. I was eating every 2 hours. That’s how cheap it was.
I don’t remember most of the names anymore. Actually I do, but I’m too lazy to look them up in my notebook. Some I really remember and these are the dishes I ate over and over again cause it was so good.
Here’s regional Chinese cuisine in photos.
Xiao Long Bao (小笼包） from Din Tai Fung
Personally, I preferred the vegetable dumplings of Din Tai Fung. It was so fragrant and herby with leek, cilantro and all that good stuff.
This is my favorite spice called 辣油 （layou).
It’s dried chili cooked in oil. IT’S SO GOOD and addicting. It’s both spice and salt and I put it on EVERYTHING. By everything I mean, chao fan （炒饭）also known as fried rice…
to lamb hot pot (羊肉 火锅）….
to noodle hot pot (米线）。
I also tried the local dumpling place near our dorm/hotel. SO CHEAP and such a filling meal. I think like 10 of these (1 basket) cost me 4 yuan or some crazy amount like that.
I also tried some local eateries near our hotel. I couldn’t really read the menu at that time but I learned some basic food words like lamb, pork, chicken, tofu and eggplant (strange word to remember but I really like eggplant).
I found this eggplant dish and I would just eat it over rice. It’s like stir fried eggplant with sauce and cilantro. I forgot what it’s called though.
I would also eat different versions of tofu.
Local barbeque costs 1 yuan a stick! How crazy is that!! I could eat 10-15 sticks in one sitting!
Washed down with the local Tsing Tao beer which cost me 1 yuan or 1.50 a bottle!
We also have extremely spicy prawn dishes. I could barely eat this. It set my mouth on fire.
I think this last photo really was my favorite. It’s called 南瓜并 (nanguabing) which is a pumpkin cake. This one was fried and on the sweet side! It was so delicious. It was warm and crispy on the outside and sweet and soft on the inside. I ate 4 of these in one sitting, together with my bowl of mixian （米线）。
I highly recommend travelling to China and exploring their cuisine. And no, Chinese take out in the U.S. is not Chinese food. So going to your local Chinatown probably isn’t going to cut it, unless you live in S
Lessons for non-Mandarin/Chinese speakers:
1) If you have no command of language at all, just look at the table next to you, see if you like their food and if you do, point to that and say “一样”. This means “the same”.
2) If you’re brave and know some words, then try it out. They will help you.
3) If you’re not used to street food and are concerned about ServSafe or sanitary conditions, well, I suggest you just stay in your hotel. You can’t really guarantee anything in the hole-in-the-walls. I haven’t gotten sick from food there but my friends have. It’s all luck! HAHAHA! My rule is: don’t order chicken if you’re not sure they can cook it properly.
4) If you’re my friend, and you wanna go to China, just call me and I’ll meet you there. I’ll happily be your tour guide. I can’t guarantee that my Mandarin will be spot on but I promise I won’t get us lost and you won’t be hungry with me. =D