If you are coming to China then no doubt you will want to try authentic Chinese food. The one meal that causes the most problem for visitors is breakfast. Hotels generally offer western breakfast or buffet style Chinese food that is pretty unappealing to most visitors. The solution? Read on …
The staple foods in China are wheat in the north and rice in the south. With modern transportation you will often find both options in most parts of the country. However, I will still stick to that division when describing the options:
Northern style breakfasts
- Savory pancake: My favorite. These crisp pancakes are quickly made by street vendors as you wait. Often there will be egg, fermented bean paste, crispy tofu, lettuce and possibly some sausage as filling. Eat as soon as this comes off the hot-plate for a truly exciting breakfast. I like lots of chilli powder on mine. You can indicate how much you want at the appropriate time.
- Steamed dumplings: Usually sold as a set of 10 in a bamboo steamer these tasty treats can be filled with meat or vegetables. You should be provided with a small saucer in which to mix a blend of vinegar, soy sauce and / or chilli sauce. Dip your dumpling in this before taking a bite. Be careful that hot juices do not squirt out. NB You may see steamed dumplings re-fried. These are delicious, if less healthy, variation.
- Steamed buns: These large lumps of steamed dough are not to everyone’s taste. They benefit from a stuffing so look for a vendor that offer something to go inside. Think of that as a Chinese sandwich!
Southern style breakfasts
- Rice noodles: Rice flour can be used to make noodles in the same way that wheat flour makes regular noodles. I find rice noodles to be lighter and less heavy on the stomach – which is a good quality in a breakfast food. Typically, these noodles are served as a set meal with meat, soup and pickles. Watch what the locals get and then follow suit.
- Rice porridge: My least favorite option though my wife and several friends rave about it. Rice porridge is made from rice that has been cooked with extra water for longer than normal, and then flavored with meat and / or vegetables. Porridges flavored with pork or chicken would suit most western palates though more interesting options that I have seen include frog and intestine. You can also find rice porridge in cans.
Wherever you travel in China, and whether you have breakfasts included in your package or not, do take the opportunity to try authentic Chinese food for at least a couple of your breakfasts. You will find all of these options suitable for western palates, and disgracefully cheap.