Chinese Breakfast – Ultimate Guide

I’m one of those who believes the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Travel across the globe and you will realize just how important the meal is. The common set up is the western breakfast that entails bacon, toast, tea/coffee, juice, milk and cereals and more.

For China, just like most other parts of the world, we believe that you should eat a full breakfast, reduce lunch and a full dinner. In fact, the meal is quite different from your usual western breakfast.

You will agree with me that it’s also quite delicious, filling and nutritious. No wonder, it’s popular across the globe. Needless to say, even non-Chinese people walk into foreign Chinese restaurants for breakfast.

The Traditional Chinese Morning Culture

For us, the best part of the day is the morning which means we don’t want you to waste that part of the day. It’s normal for you to see people exercising in the morning, doing yoga, meditation, stretching or taking walks early in the morning before they take breakfast.

We believe that you should start your day energized. The meal is often savory with strong flavors and this is contrary to English breakfast.

Understand that people also eat their breakfast on the go especially on work days. Like other major cities across the globe, if you go to schools, to the office or for farm work your day will start earlier than the rest.

We don’t rely on the large family table fest for breakfast rather we get our food from street vendors something that is so unpopular among other cities of the world. Furthermore, we like our breakfast hot and ready to grab.

The breakfast meals cut across the regional cuisines but some of the meals are more popular in some cities than others.

So, What is Traditional Chinese Breakfast?

The traditional Chinese breakfast is basically the meal you first take in the morning after you wake up. Of course, this is an important meal for the Chinese as it is to other people.

What you should know

  • The Chinese don’t only depend on bread, milk and cereals for breakfast like other people do. We have many options to choose from.
  • We don’t even sit at the table together and eat the meal while reading a newspaper.
  • It’s rarely cooked at home because there are so many street vendors offering the meal anyway. Although we take a little bit of coffee and tea it’s not consumed as much as it is in the West.
  • The meal is always hot and ready to eat on the go.
  • This meal is valued in that one can’t ever miss it.
  • The traditional Chinese meal entails soy milk to go with various other snacks. You may choose to eat anything between savory and sweet to savory and heavy meals.
  • You eat the meal in a hurry from the street vendors.

What’s the Typical Chinese Breakfast?

I know and that’s why I keep mentioning, the most common breakfast in the world is the European one. However, when you have had enough of the croissant, some bacon, cereals, tea and coffee, you might want to try the Chinese style of breakfast.

Since China is a large country the breakfast may vary from one province to another. However, it’s all breath-taking. Typically, the meal contains fruits, noodles, meat and veggies. The Chinese breakfast may sometime entail the meal from the previous dinner.

A real breakfast would contain a bowl of congee and if you are in Beijing then youtiao will work. Other meals include the deep-fried dough sticks which you will deep into the soy milk. You may also use the steaming hot bread to deep into the soy milk.

We then accompany this with some form of eggs. Sometimes we prefer a large breakfast in which case, we might use a few cold meals. This may include veggies, pickles and nuts.

If you are in the hotel, you will have additional meals like the fried eggs, some form of rice meal and in some instances even Chow Mein. You may also have millet and meals like stir-fried pork.

If you are looking for the adventurous meal then the doufu or other forms of tofu should be in the meal. You may further have some forms of sweets like baozi and sometimes even sponge cakes.

Breakfast noodles

For most other people this may sound weird, however the Chinese love noodles for breakfast. Wheat noodles and rice noodles are best preferred for breakfast. In fact, different regions prefer different noodles.

Understand that there are thousands of noodles in China and hundreds of select types that you may use for your breakfast.

The use of mala which is a hot numbing sensation is what people of Sichuan and Chongqing prefer for their noodles. Other provinces use noodles in soy sauce while others use hot noodles.

  1. Yang chun noodles

 

This is one of the most popular kinds of breakfast noodles. You serve it with a simple broth and soy sauce. The broth normally contains chopped green onion and lard. Sometimes, it has the chicken stock as the broth.

This meal has existed since the ancient days. The noodles are fine and thin and are either found fresh or dry.

  1. Hot and dry noodles

 

As earlier stated, the Chinese love noodles for breakfast. The hot and dry kind of noodles are common in Wuhan. This one, you cook in the sesame oil until it becomes tender. When you are ready to serve it though, you simply reheat it in hot water.

You should then top them up with chilli sauce pickled veggies, garlic, chives and sesame oil.

  1. Rice noodle roll

This is popular in the south and especially Guangdong province. You will always find them on the streets where they use huge metal contraption. This rice noodle dish is made using rice milk, pork and eggs.

You can then let it steam and when ready you can use sweet soy sauce. It’s particularly loved in Zhuhai China.

  1. Wheat noodles

This is also popularly used for breakfast just like the rice noodles. Lanzhou noodles are popular among the halal food of China. It’s often served with lamb and beef. I personally enjoy a bowl of hot, fresh and flavourful noodles.

  1. Hainan breakfast noodle

Hainan has one of the most popular cuisines that make up Chinese cuisine. Like all other breakfast pieces, we have talked of, this is a Chinese street food breakfast. You make it when you put the vermicelli into a simmering pot of soup and let it cook.

Next, you can add in the conch soup or brown gravy. Lastly add your favorite toppings which may include cilantro, roast peanut, roast sesame, marinated beef or pork among others.

  1. Vietnamese noodles

 

This is another one of the common noodles. We make its broth using water from a well in the city. You can top it with crispy pork. With this meal, you are strong for the day.

Chinese breakfast bread

Although the Chinese bread is not a staple for breakfast compared to the West, we still eat some bread. In fact, it’s often different from the regular one you are used to. The bread here is either pan-fried or steamed.

  1. Mantou

 

This is popular in northern China and it’s usually cloud-like. If you know baozi, this looks somewhat close to it. The only difference is that it doesn’t have the fillings. You may deep fry it or steam it.

This one is dipped in different sauces or gravy to make a whole meal. My favorite set is where I eat it in the company of congee with preserved veggies. This being a bun, you may reheat it with a steamer if you cooked them the previous night.

You may use it when you are looking to eat spicy sauces like chilli oil because apart from the sweet aroma, it’s usually plain.

  1. Steamed buns

Generally steamed buns are part of Chinese meals at any time of day. If you decide to stuff it, you make it baozi while the mantou is mostly plain.

Chinese breakfast dumplings

For most of the people in other parts of the world, using dumplings for breakfast sounds weird. But, guess what in China, this one of the breakfast meals. The best part is that the dumplings are often bite-size pieces.

They are often classified the same way you do with wontons. They contain the wrapper and the dumplings are either round or square. They are mostly prepared in the bamboo steamer.

Moreover, they contain a large filling which is anything from fish, shrimp, mushroom and ground pork. In fact, what creates the difference in the names of the dumplings is the filings used. Below are a few types you should know about.

  1. Carrot dumplings

This one combines your carrots and eggs and thus produce all the rich flavors and savoury tastes. Although this is appealing to the vegetarians, even meat lovers may enjoy it.

  1. Spicy wonton

 

This is most popular among the Chinese region of spicy food lovers the Sichuan province. Wonton is sometimes served in the soup and acts as a whole meal. the dish features the silky texture of a meal.

You make the meal with simple ingredients which means you can easily make it at home as well. You may serve it without soup as well if you wish.

  1. Baozi dumplings

 

It’s common to notice large bamboo steamers in the morning that have steam forming over them. This is often the case when preparing baozi.

It’s quite popular and it comes in both small and large sizes. They have their fillings being anything from pork to even cabbage. The fact that they have fillings is what makes them different from normal mantou.

  1. Dumplings and dim sum

Generally, dumplings serve all meals from breakfast to lunch and dinner. Remember, there are many types of dumplings that you should choose from.

Basically, dim sum is just the small bite-sized foodstuffs that are served in Asian restaurants. You may use them for all sorts of meals of your day.

  1. Fried Dough sticks

 

This you may classify in the list of bread types of China. It’s simply made using dough as the name suggests but it’s often quite chewy and even crispy. The fried dough sticks are similar across the country and its often served with soy milk.

The dough stick is quite popular in the world although the method of preparation is different. The Chinese one is sweet that’s why it’s eaten with richly flavoured soy milk.

Chinese rice breakfast

I think our list would be hanging without the list of rice breakfast mostly because the Chinese love rice in their meals.

  1. Steamed glutinous rice

This is a form of rice dumpling that is made using rice but covered in bamboo leaves. You will find them in your street stalls and they contain different healthy and delicious fillings. In most cases, people use the red bean paste, egg yolk and lotus seeds.

Sometimes people use fatty pork and chestnut. They are popular during the dragon boat festival.

  1. Breakfast fried rice

The fried rice is another major meal in the country used throughout the day but mostly during lunch and dinner. For the breakfast option, you may use bacon and eggs. People love it because it’s fast and easy to make yet so filling.

Generally, this is just your regular fried rice although you use bacon and eggs. You may also use broccoli and green peas if you are a vegan.

Breakfast restaurant places

Of course, Chinese cities like most other cities in the world are busy in the morning. Therefore, breakfast on the go options are quite common. It’s thus common for you to find the people eating their breakfast at street vendors places.

The food is rich and clean especially when you get used to it. There are also various options that you would never find in restaurants. Nevertheless, below are a few restaurants you may consider for your breakfast.

  • Huguosi snacks

For those days that you are looking for the real feel of the Chinese breakfast meals, visit this restaurant. It’s a chain restaurant found in Beijing that allows you to have all the unique features of the traditional breakfast.

Address: 68 Huguosi Street, Xicheng Qu Beijing Shi, 100009 China.

  • JW café

This will give you an all-day unforgettable experience. The food is utterly delicious but most importantly they have an ambient environment. Moreover, you have a blend of both Chinese cuisine and other international meals.

They offer you the breakfast buffet and you will thank yourself later for trying it.

Address: at the pacific place. No.88 Queensway Hong Kong.

Chinese pancakes

  1. Moo Shu pork- wrapped in pancakes

 

This is a common Chinese dish that you will find in most Chinese restaurants. It’s originally from northern China. The dish takes a short time to prepare no wonder some people use it for breakfast.

You must have the pork, green onions and mushrooms and scrambled eggs. These ones are stir-fried together in the company of other ingredients. Once you have this, you then roll it in the thin pancakes instead of serving it over rice as you are used to.

The mixture uses wine, sake or chicken broth in some instances. Of course, this is close to the western style of a taco but it’s not the same.

  1. Jianbing

 

This is yet another one of the most popular breakfast snack. It’s simply a Chinese style of crepe that is topped with eggs. It’s not only eye-catching but its also delicious. You have the crepes made using the grain flour.

To further flavour it, they use the green onions, chilli sauce, sweet soy sauce paste and cilantro. Since it has globalized, today you may even use cheese or ham.

Best Jianbing recipe to try

  1. Scallion pancake

This is another one of the famous Chinese treats. You will even find it in big restaurants. It’s chewy, flaky and savory. This pancake has scallions as its fillings or some people use scallions as toppings.

You will have different styles of scallion pancakes. They are large, thin but crispy. You will even find others that use lard as shortening.

Chinese scallion pancake recipe

  1. Ji dan Bing

 

Although it’s not as popular as the two above outside of the country, the pancake style is popular within the country. This pancake has one side is crispy and the other is soft. This is because the egg is cracked on top of a thinly rolled dough.

You let the egg brown and then you add some flavouring agents like chilli bean sauce, sweet bean sauce and chilli sauce.

  1. Red bean pastes pancakes

 

We love beans recipe and for that reason, you will always find them coming across in various meals. We even make ourselves the red beans pancake. It assumes the shape of the scallion pancakes.

You need to add water to it before to soften it more. Most importantly we use the red beans as filings to the pancakes.

Chinese breakfast porridge and beverages

  1. Congee

 

This is a type of rice porridge and it’s popular across major Asian countries. It’s also referred to as Zhou. It resembles porridge but it’s a watery rice gruel. It entails a variety of seasonings which keep you longing for the porridge.

It’s sometimes sweet and other times savory. You can season it with chicken, beef, mushroom and just anything. If you will take a walk across the major cities, you will find people with bowls of congee porridge every morning.

Snacks like deep fried dough twists are eaten alongside the congee. It’s a staple that you will enjoy regardless of where you are from.

  1. Soy milk

 

This is a common Chinese drink commonly used for breakfast. This is also called doujiang and it’s basically a sweet soybean milk. It acts as a dipping sauce for snacks like deep fried dough twist. This milk is served cold or warm.

In fact, it appears to be the most common Chinese drink for the breakfast meal. It’s best made at home since you may flavour it as much as you like to.

  1. Tofu pudding

 

The tofu pudding is commonly used throughout the day. it features the use of tofu to make the pudding. Understand that the use of tofu cuts across the whole country and its flavour differs from one region to another.

You may have a sweet and savory pudding at home. Below is a recipe for you to try.

Salt or sweet tofu pudding

  1. Flour tea with sesame paste

This is commonly used in Beijing. It’s mainly the glutinous porridge made from rice and millet. For the traditional miancha as this meal is called in Beijing, it should be thick enough to let your chopstick stand in the middle unsupported.

It’s not as common today although you will find a few stalls selling it.

Chinese breakfast eggs

Just like all other parts of the world, we equally enjoy eggs in the morning. We have different styles of making the eggs as you will see.

  1. Tea eggs

 

This is a type of egg sold throughout China and Taiwan. It’s a snack usually used for breakfast but also during other times of the day. You simply hard boil your eggs then you can tape your egg shells and in that manner, the cracks appear.

You then simmer the eggs in a pot of hot tea with spices. Now when you remove the shell, your eggs remain with great patterns.

  1. Chinese scrambled eggs

Just like western countries, we have our own version of scrambled eggs. We mostly make ours using chives. It further has the garlic flavor and it has soy sauce. This one will make a twist to your breakfast in no time.

Asian Breakfast

Notice that Asia has several cultures all of which have different meals that are carefully cooked.

  • Vietnam breakfast

Here the breakfast is mostly a combination of pho which is a kind of soup made with wheat or rice as the base, French bread and sometimes sticky rice. The soup is enriched with toppings like beans sprouts, roasted peanuts and cilantro or basil.

  • Breakfast in Thailand

We all know just how much Thailand has a rich cuisine. However, they don’t have a selected meal that is said to be for breakfast only. Items you eat for breakfast are also used for other meals.

The common one is khao tum which is a version of congee. You may even have fried rice curries and noodles.

  • Breakfast in Japan

I would say that the people of Japan are slowly embracing the west cultural breakfast. They mostly have bacon and eggs for their meals. However, the traditional style included miso soup and rice.

  • Breakfast in Korea

In Korea, the common breakfast meals are the rice kimchi and meat among other meals. It’s as large a meal as you use over the lunch hour. They also love what we call the cold barley tea. another grain-based drink is called misugaru latte.

It’s rich in proteins and has a nutty flavour.

  • Breakfast in China

For the Chinese breakfast, we have several snacks to choose from. Moreover, the meals range from rice to different veggies and wheat products. We use tea and coffee as well but not as much as other beverages like congee.

  • Breakfast in Singapore

You have probably heard of kaya toast which is just keenly made to suit the Singaporean taste buds. This often goes along with half boiled eggs.

Traditional Hong Kong Breakfast to Try

Hong Kong is a large city that has several meals. However, mentioning the Hong Kong breakfast suggests the instant noodles, satay beef together with soy milk/tea and bread. This is where you will find the pineapple bun.

Like other parts, you will also find the congee and deep-fried twists. You may easily find the toasts and omelette in hong kong because of the English people who settle in the city. Hong Kong is where the east and west cuisines meet to come up with authentic cuisine.

Aside from the famous congee, other beverages you will find here include the milk tea, lemon ice tea and chocolate tea. For international travelers who are beginning to embrace Chinese cuisine, hong kong cuisine may work to make a great transition.

Try the following meals when in hong kong

  • Century egg and congee

This features your normal congee or rice porridge but this time it has century egg pieces as well as pork. Basically, the century eggs are eggs that you submerge in different mixtures for weeks. During the process, your eggs turn black and the egg white changes to a brown jelly.

  • Dim sum

You always want to wait for your dim sum meals in hong kong because it will leave you leaking your fingers. This is simply the bite-size food portions that you serve in a food basket.

  • Instant noodles and satay soup

Noodles are the staple of China and instant noodle one of the most loved in hong kong. You may eat the instant noodles in the company of marinated satay beef. The dish is delicious and filling at the same time.

Cantonese breakfast

The staple here is congee where the rice porridge is used for breakfast and dinner as well. The other common snack is deep fried dough twists. You will also find dim sum and steamed rice rolls as well as soups.

You may have appetizers and drinks to accompany your different snack choices.

Taiwanese breakfast

A major characteristic of the Taiwan breakfast is that it is efficient although the restaurants and food service streets are often very casual. Just like the Chinese brothers’ breakfast, you will often see the dough twist and soy milk.

You will also find rice rolls which are wrapped in some form of veggies or pork floss. Dan Bing which is a similar version of jianbing.

  • Fried daikon cake

It’s common not only in Taiwan but also in China. It simply entails the frying process of a dough that has pieces of daikon as part of its ingredients. The preparation process is lengthy. Frying the batter will make it all crispy and richly flavored.

  • Roasted sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are popular during the winter season and they are used in both Taiwan and China. In roasting it you consume all the healthy nutrients while enjoying the deliciousness. The street vendors commonly roast them.

Breakfast in India

India being part of Asia has its share of rich and spicy food. I love the breakfast meal from the southern part of India. A common meal here is

  • Dosa

This is an Indian style of pancake which is made when you soak lentils and rice overnight before making yourself a batter. Next, you should stuff this batter with cooked potatoes that are also spiced. This mix is then served alongside chutney.

Common Breakfast Beverages

Although we don’t often take a lot of beverages in the morning you can choose to use the v=beverage if you so wish

  • Milk tea

Just like other parts of the world, China is quickly embracing the use of milk tea. This is popular in large cosmopolitan cities in the country. Milk tea is used for breakfast and through the day by a few people today.

There are other types of tea like herbal tea, Jasmin tea, green tea among others that you may use at any time you wish not necessarily for breakfast.

  • Coffee

Another one of the popular beverages is coffee. Of course, it’s not as popular as it in the west but a few of us love it for breakfast every time.

  • Chinese egg cake

This is ideal for those days when you are looking for a quick fix of your breakfast. This cake is steamed as opposed to baking. Simply put, it looks like your regular cake with the difference being that it’s steamed. The cakes are easy to make yet they remain fluffy and tasty.

Conclusion

We value our people and the breakfast being one of the most important meals for humanity, you have access to various meals. You can enjoy the healthy ones from the streets or big restaurants in the country as well as at home. You just need to know what you want to eat.

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