Tianjin chef shares culinary history with a new generation

2021-01-12 12:05:43

Fu Liying chats with fans during a livestream on Douyin. “‘Liking’ my dishes is the greatest support and encouragement you can give me,” says Fu Liying while chatting with fans on a Douyin livestream as he showcases a table of traditional Tianjin-style food that he cooked. Fu, a 50-year-old Tianjin native, is an inheritor of Tianjin cuisine’s traditional dishes, known as Tianjin’s Eight Bowls. Through his efforts, the dishes were listed among the city’s intangible cultural heritage items in 2017. Fu runs a restaurant called Eight Bowls of Tianjin, where he promotes the city’s traditional dishes, which enjoy a history of more than 200 years. Although these foodstuffs were once an essential part of the table while entertaining guests in the coastal city, they have waned in popularity over the last century due to the decline of “canal culture.” As a result, fewer chefs in Tianjin know how to cook the Eight Bowls. But chefs like Fu are breathing new life into the Eight Bowls via new media. Several months ago, Fu began posting content on popular short video platform Douyin to teach people how to cook Tianjin cuisine. Tianjin dishes He shoots six videos every week, recording his cooking process over seven hours before editing the footage down to approximately one-minute in length. Although he has only been posting his cooking videos on Douyin for a few months, he has managed to amass more than 200,000 followers. "Inheritance is not rigid, and we must continue to work hard to let more people understand intangible cultural heritage, form memories and establish an awareness of inheritance," says Fu. Douyin has allowed Fu to promote Tianjin’s cuisine and intangible cultural heritage at the same time. "We need to incorporate innovative techniques into traditional tastes and production techniques, so that young people can learn to accept and enjoy Tianjin cuisine," says Fu, who is constantly exploring how to retain traditions while attracting the interest of young people. Young apprentices learn how to cook traditional dishes. Chef Xie is 27 years old and is the head chef of Fu’s restaurant and his best student. When mentioning the Eight bowls, he is proud and calm, stating, "The Eight Bowls are not difficult for me, because the master was meticulous when teaching me and he is really strict." Fu now has a dozen of apprentices and many of them are young people like Chef Xie. The inheritance of Tianjin’s culture and the Eight Bowls is gradually gaining the attention of young people. Journalism and Communication College of Tianjin Normal University provided the story