Sunday, 5 October 2014

Tianjin (it's really about food)

My big trip for the year was primarily to visit Tianjin for my good friend's wedding. We met while she was an international student in Cowtown and she decided to get married with her boyfriend while visiting home last year and moved to Australia. Then this year, her husband finished his schooling and they finally have time to hold the wedding. I always told her I would go to her wedding no matter where it is, and since I haven't used up any of my vacation time this year, why not right?
This is the adorable face of the culprit

 The trip didn't start off well. It started with my dog running out of the door as I was pulling my luggage out to catch the bus.. My friend and I ran after him as he ran across the street and I closed the door without realizing it was still locked... So there we were, locked out of the house, with my luggage inside and my flight in two hours. Thankfully, I had my phone in my back pocket and was able to call a family friend who had our spare key. Though it took her over an hour to get to my place and another 30 minutes to get to the airport. The airline rep at the counter told me if I arrived even 5 minutes later, I would not have made my flight. Phew.. Such a scare...

Once arrived at the Beijing airport.. I had another problem. I could not reach my friend as there was no free wifi at the airport.. Yes.. There is no free wifi. You need a local cell number to access the open wifi hotspots. I had to turn on roaming to access my apps and reach my friend only to find out there was a limit on cars with certain numbers on their license plate. Apparently there was too much cars out on the roads and they limit two numbers each day to alleviate the congestion. The end result was my friend's dad driving to pick up another friend and I at the airport by himself. Thankfully they found me after an hour... Phew.... Onward we go to Tianjin.

The drive was about an hour or two, I lost track as I fell asleep in the car. The driving style in China is definitely a lot crazier than here in Canada. They keep on changing lanes back and forth and honking at each other and not signal properly. No wonder it is so hard to get a drivers license in China.

Anyways, since my friend's wedding was two days after I arrive, we had a lot of things to do. I won't go into details but it was definitely really touching to see her in her wedding dress and being so happy with her husband. I was very happy and grateful to be a part of her happy day and be able to report the event to friends back home.

 Ok, back on topic. This is going to be about the food I had in Tianjin. There are few places I ate at but forgot to take pictures of, mainly because I didn't have a chance. The one I really wished I did take picture was at KFC. Yes, really, KFC. But only because I was so excited to get the toy from the Kids Meal. It was a Conan toy from Meitantei Conan!!! Otherwise known as Case Closed in North America. That is my favourite manga series of all time. I was so excited to have the toy I didn't take any pictures of the food, which included coffee with ice cream in it.

Anyways, the first meal I did take a picture of is at Eng Time. It is a restaurant right outside of my friend's place. It is supposed to be English themed restaurant with the servers dressed like they are attendants at a banquet. There were a group of greeters at the doors which scared me a little. The decoration is very westernized to match the restaurant's theme. The menu is in Chinese and English and offers both western and Asian style meals. I ordered the beef with pickled chili peppers meal. When it arrived, I was intrigued.It included some side dishes and a soup. But when I opened the lid of the dish, it smelled like it was lamb instead of beef. Since I don't eat lamb due to the fact that its gaminess makes me want to puke. I tried to eat it but just couldn't. When I mentioned it to my friend back in Cowtown, she informed me that the beef in China has a much stronger taste than the beef in Cowtown. That was why it smelled more like lamb than beef. So heads up to anyone who can't handle gamey meat and wish to try beef in China.

The second set of meals I remember to take pictures of was the cake and buns I picked up at the mall called Joy City across the street. I was a scaredy cat and did not dare to venture any further than across the road from my hotel. The rule of the roads in China is that the cars have the right of way on roads instead of pedestrians. Though the pedestrians often jay walk. So I didn't dare to walk anywhere unless I am with friends, or follow a large group of pedestrians.

I picked up a slice of cake, two buns, a moon cake and a drink from a cake shop. I lingered there to use their free wifi. For some reason my hotel doesn't offer free wifi unless you are at their lobby.

The cake I picked up had a fancy Chinese name but I cannot remember what it was. I liked the case it was in, they also included a small spoon. I liked the thoughtfulness of it. Since I don't have any utensils back at the hotel.The cake was definitely not what I was expecting. The very first thing I tasted was the egg as it was very strong. The second taste was grainy sugar. It was such a strange taste that it took me a few bites to figure out what was so weird. I could not finish the slice of cake at all.

The two buns were much better. I enjoyed both of them very much. The bun was soft and fluffy, the sausage was firm, and the corn added a crunchy texture. Though the hot dog looking bun is deceptive. The hot dog looks like there is half a sausage in the bun, but there isn't. There is only half a sausage in the bun. Oh well. Still yummy.

The last treat was a little moon cake in the shape of a bunny. Mid Autumn festival was coming up, not  really, it was in September. But they were selling the mid autumn festival already. It had a Hongzao filling, which are called Jujube in English according to wikipedia. It was very good, I actually wished I got more. The white pastry was soft and it was more like a wagashi instead of the baked texture of a normal mooncake.

After a day of hiding, my friend dragged me out and visited the famous food street in Tianjin on my last day. The front is apparently famous as everyone who visits always take pictures in front of it. I wasn't too impressed though.

Once inside the food street, I was told to be careful and watch my belongings since it was busy and there was pickpockets everywhere. There were a lot of little stores and stands inside, including some famous foods of Tianjin.

The first stand we arrived at was tea soup. They could not explain what was in it, but the way the man poured the hot water into the bowl was pretty cool. It's got raisins, goji, sunflower seeds, and other additions that I can't quite identify. It was like eating a bowl of porridge with things thrown into it.

The second stand was for something called ear eye. It is basically a deep fried pastry with red bean filling. The outside was crunchy while the inside was chewy so it was most likely made with sticky rice flour. The red bean filling was sweet like it was mass produced. The item was quite oily so the sweetness kind of balanced out the oil. I am not sure why it is called ear eye.

The last place we went to is for the most famous food out of Tianjin, gou bu li bao zi (狗不理包子). It roughly translates to don't even care about dog buns. I asked why it's called that, and I was told it is because the buns are so good that you won't even care about your dog. The place we went to had a very gorgeous replica of the emperor's throne, though when you look at it closely, the paint is a little bit run down.
Apparently these buns are famous and it's at the famous food street, it is marked up quite a bit. How the process goes is you place the order and pay for it at the front. Once it is ready, you go and pick it up. My friend's husband ordered two different types for us to each. One is original, the other is pork and seafood. The buns are quite small, they reminds me of xiao long bao. They are about two bites.
The bun is great with some chili oil and vinegar. The outside is soft and slightly chewy while the inside was very juicy.. I did find the inside to be a bit on the oily side and a little salty. The buns also comes with some sides that was quite good. I can't remember what they are now but I remember there was some pork involved and it was good.

This ends my long winded post about food in Tianjin... Onward to Taipei.. YAY!!!! Twice as much fun.. Hahaha.


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