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Typical breakfast dishes you need to try in China

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When you think of breakfast, images of cereal, toast, eggs and bacon might come to mind. While this is the standard for Western breakfast, in China it’s totally different. Unlike in Western countries, breakfast is usually not a leisurely sit-down family feast. In general, the day starts early for school children, office workers and pretty much everyone else in China. Most people rely on street foods and snacks, grabbing something from their favorite stall on the way to work or school.





Vendors will open early to sell their goods to passing commuters. If you are walking around in the morning and see a cloud of steam billowing out of a shopfront filled with large bamboo steamers, then chances are you’ve found a steamed bun shop! The most popular Chinese breakfast dish is baozi; a steamed fluffy bun with hundreds of varieties of fillings from meat and vegetables to sweet ones, like red bean paste. You can also find plain, unfilled steamed bread buns, which are called mántou. These are best eaten fresh out of the bamboo steamer!



Although originally from Shandong Province, this is one of the most popular breakfasts-on-the-go across China. Jianbing, the Chinese cousin to the French crepe, but with slightly different ingredients, is popular among the locals and expat community. It’s essentially a crepe topped with an egg, chopped scallions, cilantro, sweet soybean paste, and chili sauce, wrapped around a crispy wonton wrapper or a youtiao. If you’re in Beijing, the crepe with egg is flipped before adding other toppings; in Shanghai, it stays put, for a crisper finish.

Today, many stalls in China also offer fillings like cheese and ham. 



Zongzi, are steamed glutinous rice balls with a variety of tasty fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves that can be bought at most breakfast stalls. It’s an easy and filling breakfast, which has a variety of tasty flavours, including the sweet flavor of egg yolk, lotus seeds, and red bean paste and the salty flavor of fatty pork and chestnuts. Zongzi are especially popular during the Dragon Boat Festival.



Wontons and dumplings are similar types of food, which are comprised of a thin round or square wrapper and fillings such as ground pork, fish, shrimp, mushrooms, and other vegetables. The wontons can be boiled in a fragrant and watery broth, fried in a high-heat wok or steamed in a bamboo steamer. Sometimes, wontons are also served with noodles, to make “wonton noodles”.


Tea eggs

Sold at pretty much every hole-in-the-wall breakfast stall and convenience store across China, tea eggs are the ultimate on-the-go breakfast. As the name suggests, they are hard-boiled eggs that are soaked in a fragrant spiced broth made with tea leaves and an abundance of spices such as fennel seeds, cinnamon, star anise and Sichuan peppercorns. The tea leaves (and the addition of dark soy sauce) give the eggs a distinctive dark marbling where it seeps through the cracked shells.



Rice Porridge or Congee is a mild-flavored rice that has been cooked for a long time with enough water to soften the rice.  In cold winter it’s warm enough and during the hot summer days, the cooled down version is mild enough. Almost every breakfast vendor provides porridge or congee, and it is served with different toppings such as fermented tofu, peanuts, pickled vegetables, eggs and meat. In northern China, congee may be made with other grains, such as millet, cornmeal or sorghum.



Soymilk and youtiao                                                                                                                                                                    

Just as a morning cup of coffee and a croissant are a staple in France, soymilk and youtiao are in China. At first the combination might sound weird, but the fresh and light soymilk balances out the youtiao, a deep-fried bread stick with a crispy-chewy texture. This combination can be even better if you dip the youtiao and soak it in the soymilk, which transforms it into a juicy and soft dessert.


Tofu pudding

Tofu pudding is very soft tofu, which is made from raw beans. Flavors of tofu pudding vary by region. In the north, people like it salty with soy sauce, salt or even with meat. However, in the south, people prefer the sweet version sweetened by brown sugar syrup or sugar.




In the West, noodles are a meal for lunch or dinner, but in China that’s not the case. Noodles are popular at any time of the day, including breakfast. In the South of China, boiled rice noodles are a popular choice. Toppings like fried peanuts, soybeans, thinly sliced meat, pickled mustard or chopped scallions are added. In the North, wheat noodles are preferred.


China is a massive country with a big population, so there is a big variety of different cuisines and flavors dependent on the region.  Despite the regional-based variety of breakfast foods, there are some factors that are common to all regions; Breakfast is important and shall not be skipped. Our partners at Hutong School offer internships in 7 cities across China. How would you like to swap your eggs benedict for something more exotic? From noodle soups to fluffy steamed bao, the Middle Kingdom has it all!

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