In Spain we usually have breakfast at home, but eating it outside is very common in China, as people on the way to work just grab something to eat during the commute or in the office. That is why in my street there are several small shops selling breakfast to go. One of the most popular places (there’s always a line!) sells this:
Sweet soy milk and 大饼 dabing, which is like a flat bread. There are two flavours, sweet and savoury. C.’s parents say that the dabing in my street are the best in Suzhou!
But in China there are many other different breakfasts. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular ones.
Jianbing is like a crepe that is done pouring liquid dough in a round hot plate and stretching it with a small utensil that looks a bit like the rake used to move around the sand in zen gardens. When the dough is stretched, other ingredients are placed in the center. The basic recipe has an egg, scallions and a crunchy thing that I am not sure what it is (it might be fried dough). Then the whole thing is rolled and cut into two pieces. It’s originally from the north of China, but it can be found in street food stalls throughout the country.
These are very similar to the Spanish churros! But thicker and longer. They’re just fried dough, but so good. They can be dipped in soy milk if you want. They are hugely popular and even KFC sells them.
Steamed buns that can also be eaten for breakfast. The filling can be basically anything: meat, vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, red bean paste… The ones that don’t have filling (so they are just like a steamed bread) are called 馒头 mantou. The “wrinkled” ones with scallions on top are called 花卷 huajuan and also don’t have filling.
Officially known in English as congee, it is a thick rice soup. The breakfast variety is either just plain white rice soup, and then you add some savoury toppings, or sweet versions like the pumpkin congee. To be honest I never have congee for breakfast, but I love it for lunch or dinner.
Some people have a bowl of noodles in a restaurant for breakfast to start the day fully recharged!
This one is typical from the south of China. I have only eaten it in Guangdong or in Cantonese restaurants, but I love it. They are steamed rolls made with rice flour and the filling is usually meat, eggs or shrimps. It’s then covered by a sweet sauce.
The name literally means tofu flower. It’s a bit like a pudding, but made with tofu… so in itself it doesn’t have much taste. You have to add sweet or savoury toppings. I have tried the savoury version, which normally has tiny dried shrimp and vegetables.
I think that, for foreigners (particularly westerners) that visit China, breakfast is the less popular meal, as it is completely different from what we usually eat in the morning. Some people just can’t imagine having noodles or rice for breakfast and drag themselves through the streets until they find a Starbucks. Which, by the way, will be 5-10 times more expensive than any of these breakfasts! When in Rome do as the Romans do, and when in China eat what the Chinese eat!
Have you tried any Chinese traditional breakfast? There are many more that I didn’t list here! Which one is your favourite or which one would you like to try?