Tianjin cuisine places a heavy focus on seafood, due to Tianjin's proximity to the sea. Prominent menus include the Eight Great Bowls (八大碗), a combination of eight mainly meat dishes. It can be further classified into several varieties, including the rough (粗), smooth (S: 细 / T: 细), and high (高). The Four Great Stews (四大扒) refers actually to a very large number of stews, including chicken, duck, seafood, beef, and mutton.
Tianjin also has several famous snack items. Goubuli (狗不理包子) is a famous and traditional brand of baozi (steamed buns with filling) that is famous throughout China. Guifaxiang (桂发祥麻花) is a traditional brand of mahua (twisted dough sticks). Erduoyan (耳朵眼炸糕) is a traditional brand of fried rice cakes.
Tianjin cuisine is derived from the native cooking styles of the Tianjin region in China, and it is heavily influenced by Beijing cuisine, due to the proximity of the two megalopolises. Tianjin cuisine differs from Beijing cuisine in the following ways:
Tianjin cuisine is much more heavily concentrated on riverine fish/shrimps and seafoods due to its geographical location of on the coast.
For the same dish, the taste of Tianjin cuisine is not as heavy as that of Beijing cuisine, and this is often reflected in the lighter salty taste of Tianjin cuisine.
Though Beijing cuisine and Tianjin cuisine are both mainly salty in taste, in the cooking of Tianjin cuisine, sugar is required more frequently and resulting in the unique taste of Tianjin cuisine: there is a slight sweet taste in the salty taste.
Tianjin cuisine utilizes Mutton and lamb (food) more frequently due to the less frequently utilized pork in comparison to Beijing cuisine, and in the event of traditional holidays, Mutton / lamb (food) are nearly always prepared for holiday dishes.
A greater proportion of Tianjin cuisine is consisted of rice in comparison to Beijing cuisine.
The ways noodles are served in Tianjin cuisine is different than that of Beijing cuisine in that for Tianjin cuisine, the vegetables and meat are served separately in Beijing cuisine are together with the noodles in a single dish instead.
The most significant characteristic of Tianjin cuisine is perhaps its healthy breakfast diet in comparison to its neighboring cuisines: although Tianjin is right next to Beijing, the rate of cancers associated with diet is far less in Tianjin than Beijing and researchers discovered the main reason was in the difference of breakfast:
The main ingredients of breakfasts in Tianjin cuisine are tofu and soy milk, whereas a great number of the items in breakfasts of Beijing cuisine are fried, which resulted in contributing to the occurrence of cancer.
Another characteristic of Tianjin cuisine is its utilization of Tianjin preserved vegetable (天津冬菜), which is similar to the salt pickled vegetable, or yancai (腌菜) of Guizhou cuisine, but the former takes much longer to prepare than the latter, usually half a year. Another clear distinction between the two is that instead of having two separate steps of salt pickling and then fermentation, the salt pickling and fermentation is combined in a single step that takes a much longer time
Chinese cabbage is mixed with salt and garlic together and then fermented, which creates the unique garlic flavor / taste and golden color. In order to preserve the unique taste, Tianjin preserved vegetable is often used for soups, fishes, and stir fried and directly eaten.