December 10, 2007


A boy was born to a forty year old farmer in the Tianjin countryside. He named his baby “Gouzi” (Baby dog) for the sake of protecting his young infants life (I suppose babies are not given to forty year old men?). Gouzi went to Tianjin to study when he was 14, apprenticing in a steamed food shop. As a young boy he was hard working and showed much talent—though didn’t much like working for others. He ventured on his own and ran a stall of “Bouzi” (Steamed stuffed bun). He concocted a half-leaven, water filled dough that was soft and fragrant, looking much like a white chrysanthemum. People came from many places to eat his special Baozi. So much so that people in his neighborhood would say, “Gouzi isn’t talking when he is selling his Bouzi!” Before long, people started to call him “Gou Buli” (By “buli” meaning—he who does not pay attention to people), hence the nickname. Through the years Gou Buli Bouzi has attracted a number of famous patrons, from the Empress Dowager Cixi, to Mao, to your very own Jolly Jetsetter.

So the legend goes, for the most famous dumplings in Northern China. Now as an adventurer, I usually prefer to chase mountain peaks, rich cigars, the finest malts… even skirt, but this dumpling, this juicy, succulent, herb filled dumpling, was worth the frigid cold and shit filled alleyways. My date in tow, we ascended the very same stairs that Mao and George Bush Senior, to sit and enjoy our five different dumpling varieties: shrimp, Pork, Beef, Lamb, and Vegetables (bleh). They were a ludicrously expensive $1.5 each (55 pesos per dumpling) but well worth the expense. Paired with an oily plate of string beans and a cold Tsingdao beer, the dumpling experience is one that I would recommend to any traveler through Tianjin. Just watch how you bite into them, as they have a nasty habit of bursting, sending the soupy liquid dribbling down your chin and onto your clean, pressed collar. Fortunately there are napkins that you can buy for an additional $0.4.

When it comes to an adventure, one is never quite sure if it was the end that made the trip worthwhile or the chase. For these rare dumplings I would say that the cold, dirt, distance, and difficulty were very much a part of the herbs and spices used to make such a memorable dish.

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