A Brief History of Ear Hole Fried Cake

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/santangelo-jon/4527815120"> Tianjin Snacks  | © Jon Santangelo/Flickr</a>
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/santangelo-jon/4527815120"> Tianjin Snacks | © Jon Santangelo/Flickr</a>
Photo of Jon Santangelo
5 July 2017

Among Tianjin’s most memorable, homegrown snacks is the Ear Hole Fried Cake. If you’ve never heard of this treat, you’re likely to picture a cake that resembles an ear. Regarded as one of Tianjin’s “special foods” along with the nationally ubiquitous Goubuli Baozi (steamed dumplings), this traditional snack originates from the days of China’s last dynasty in the late Qing era (and thankfully doesn’t contain any ears!).

The name

The snack originated over 80 years ago, invented by a peddler named Liu Wanchun. Every day he pulled a wheelbarrow full of these cakes along Tianjin’s Bei Da Guan, a narrow street that resembled an ear-hole. Pronounced “Er Duo Yan Zha Gao” in Chinese, the official name came to be and still, today is Ear Hole Fried Cake.



Ear Hole Cakes are usually made over a fire. Yellow rice dough is leveled and kneaded, the cake is then filled with a tasty red bean paste: slightly, but not too sweet, and topped with sugar. The cake is oval in shape, fried and crispy. The outer layer of the cake has a golden, crunchy cover, while its insides are sweet and tender with the red bean paste.



The cakes started gaining notoriety in Tianjin and Liu Wanchun’s reputation as the maker of this cake grew and grew. Liu’s choice of ingredients was meticulous and selected perfectly. He carefully crafted each cake and within a short time patrons would flock to him in search of his delicious pastry.


The shops

Taking advantage of the newfound acclaim, Liu eventually opened his own shop and his buisness flourished. A side effect of the popularity of the cake caused the actual name of Liu Wanchun’s shop to be forgotten and instead replaced with the misnomer, Erduoyan, which stuck and is the official name of the shops today. Be sure to visit the shop in Nanshi Food Street. You can try five flavors for only 3.5 RMB.


With the original shop still standing, Erduoyan now has six different flagship shops and is considered the most popular pastry snack in all of Tianjin. Be sure to leave room for Ear Hole Fried Cake and remember that a wheelbarrow hauling street peddler first made Tianjin’s most revered snack.

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