Local delicacy spices up tourism in northwest China city

(Xinhua) 09:55, March 21, 2024

LANZHOU, March 20 (Xinhua) -- At dawn, the bustling snack streets of Tianshui, a city in northwest China's Gansu Province, were already teeming with activity, with visitors eager to taste the local specialty, malatang, literally meaning a numbingly spicy hotpot.

Dong Liangyan, 29, hailing from Daqing in the northernmost province of Heilongjiang, said she has come all the way traveling over 2,000 km just to savor this delicacy that has intrigued her for quite some time.

"When I unlocked my phone, all I could see was promotional messages about Tianshui malatang spicy hotpot," she said, adding that the aromatic chili oil and the velvety texture of hand-pulled noodles made her culinary quest all the more rewarding.

This simple spicy hotpot delicacy has recently thrust this quaint city into the online spotlight, enchanting tourists with its rich history spanning over 8,000 years.

As a popular specialty snack across China, spicy hotpot offers a diverse range of flavors, depending on the region. In Tianshui, the hot and fiery chili oil blankets an array of ingredients, complemented by a serving of silky hand-pulled noodles, creating a distinctive and delightful culinary experience.

In recent years, the choice of destinations by tourists has become increasingly diverse, with many opting to travel for culinary experiences and to discover new flavors as part of their holiday adventures.

According to a 2023 report on gastronomic tourism released by the China Tourism Academy, the role of gastronomy in shaping tourism destinations and development strategies is gaining prominence. It has emerged as a crucial factor in unveiling the cultural landscape of cities to a broader audience.

"Nothing can resist the temptation of this bowl of delicacy," said 48-year-old Ha Haiying who has owned a malatang restaurant in Qinzhou District for over two decades.

While handling the long queues of customers outside her shop, Ha explained how the affordably priced hotpot serves as a prime example of food's evolving role as a catalyst for cultural and tourism consumption.

Data further confirms the popularity of "foodie tours." As of March 13, discussions about "Tianshui malatang" have dominated the trending topics on major social media platforms, with over 1.05 billion views on short video platforms. Searches for "Tianshui malatang" on the Chinese lifestyle-sharing platform Xiaohongshu have resulted in over 30,000 relevant notes.

The "foodie tour" also boosts the sales of various local agricultural products. As the "soul" of Tianshui hot pot, the bright red and richly flavored chili powder from Gangu County has become a new favorite for many food lovers.

According to He Zhibin, general manager of a chili production and processing enterprise in Gangu, chili products have gained significant traction online, with many social media influencers and e-commerce hosts seeking collaborations.

"Eating is not the only motive for travel, said Ju Yuexuan, a tourist from Shenyang in northeast China's Liaoning Province. "I also want to enjoy the unique scenery in the northwest."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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