What makes a traditional breakfast?
Here in the Philippines, those pressed to answer would probably say silog, but have you ever wondered what other people around the world eat to start off their day? In China, there’s a wide variety of traditional breakfast foods to choose from, ranging from steamingly hot street snacks to hearty bowls of noodles, amongst other options, depending on the region you choose.
Here are eight Chinese breakfast dishes that you can’t miss out on:
1. Dumplings / Jiaozi (餃子)
Let’s start with something basic! Dumplings — or jiaozi, as they are locally called — are some of the most common breakfast items that you’ll find in China. Stuffed with a delicious mixture of ground meat and vegetables, these flavorful pockets of dough are often served steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or submerged in soup.
2. Doujiang and Youtiao (豆浆油条)
There probably isn’t a more well-loved breakfast pairing in China than doujiang and youtiao. Doujiang, more universally known as soybean milk, is a popular drink in the country due to its light, fresh, and healthy nature. This makes it perfect to pair with the savory oiliness of youtiao, which is essentially a deep-fried stick of dough not too different from the Mexican churro, except that the former is thicker, airier, and not coated in sugar.
The best way to enjoy the pair is simple: dip the youtiao into a warm bowl of doujiang, and savor this simple and comforting breakfast!
3. Congee / Zhou (粥)
Congee is an easy dish to find on the morning table. Mild and filling, this rice porridge is topped with various seasonings such as pickled vegetables, meat, fermented tofu, century eggs, and peanuts, among others, for added depth of flavor. Youtiao is also a side that is paired often with the dish.
Additionally, congee may also be customized according to its base ingredients. For sweeter variants, for example, congee can also be made with black rice, red beans, and coix seeds.
4. Jianbing (煎饼)
Jianbing can literally be translated to “pan-fried cakes.” However, a more accurate way to describe them would be to see them as savory crepes, which are made of a batter comprising flour, water, and eggs. Popular ingredients for the fillings include baocui (a thin and crispy fried cracker), meat, scallions, coriander, pickled vegetables, and either chili or hoisin sauce depending on one’s personal preference.
Though this isn’t usually a dish you’d find at home, what makes jianbing so fun is that it’s one of the most highly sought-after street foods in China. Watching a talented uncle crack up some eggs and flipping crepes in front of you makes the flavors of jianbing even more mouthwatering — it’s definitely joy to watch as it is to eat!
5. Tofu Pudding / Douhua (豆花)
The best translation for douhua in English would probably be “tofu pudding.” Meanwhile, in Filipino, this would definitely be “taho.”
In the Philippines, taho is generally considered to be a sweet dish — it’s essentially soft white tofu drenched in syrupy arnibal and topped with sago. In China, however, the flavor of the dish depends on the region. Douhua is typically served savory in the northern provinces, accompanied by soy sauce, meat, or a salty broth. In the south, it’s prepared sweet and eaten with a brown sugar syrup seasoned with ginger.
6. Steamed Buns / Baozi (包子)
Have you ever eaten siopao for breakfast? If you have, then you aren’t all that different from the Chinese who’ve had steamed buns for their morning meal!
Steamed buns or baozi are available in a multitude of fillings and flavors. You can have them savory, stuffed with minced meats, vegetables, and eggs; you can have them sweet, with bean paste, sugar, and custards; or you can have them plain, with nothing else but the dough for a light yet satisfying fare.
7. Wheat Noodles / Miantiao (面条)
Noodles might seem a bit too heavy for breakfast, but if they’ll give you the energy to power through the rest of the day, we don’t see why you shouldn’t try them out!
There are many ways to eat miantiao. In Shanghai, for instance, they are dressed in soy sauce. Meanwhile, in Wuhan, they are served “hot and dry” — the noodles are prepared first by boiling them, drying them, then scalding them quickly in hot water. They are afterward seasoned with chili oil, sesame paste, and coriander for a touch of fragrant flavor.
8. Glutinous Rice Dumplings / Zongzi (粽子)
Wrapped up in bamboo leaves, these “dumplings” are actually steamed glutinous rice stuffed with sweet or savory fillings. Some forms of zongzi may contain fat chunks of pork for that true umami taste while others may deliver a sweeter experience with a mixture of red bean paste and lotus seeds.
Are you a foodie at heart? Check out our article on Hokkien dishes from your Chinoy childhood right here!