Breakfast foods in China widely differ from region to region. Therefore, it is hard to list all the Chinese eat for breakfast. Here we will introduce some traditional, popular, and famous Chinese breakfast foods. They are readily found on snack streets every morning.
Dim sum (点心 diǎnxīn /dyen-sshin/ 'touch the heart') is one breakfast tradition that can be found in Chinatowns all over the world. It began in Cantonese-speaking Southern China as a snack to be eaten during yum cha (饮茶 yǐnchá /yin-chaa/), or 'drinking tea' time. The dishes are small and succulent.
At restaurants customers pick from a large selection of tasty choices, which are served in steamer baskets or on small plates.
Dumplings are a traditional dim sum treat. They are filled with vegetables, shrimp, tofu, or meat and wrapped in a translucent wheat or rice flour skin.
Other common dim sum dishes include bao, which are baked or steamed buns, as well as meatballs, chicken feet (known as "Phoenix claws"), small pastries, rolls, and sweets... The variety is almost endless.
Tea is also an important element of a traditional dim sum breakfast. Diners may choose from green, oolong, jasmine, chrysanthemum, or other types of tea. Learn more about How to Have Dim Sum and Yum Cha.
Chinese people eat baozi — steamed, filled buns — at any meal, but they are especially popular at breakfast. Baozi can be filled with ground pork, vegetables such as spinach or eggplant, eggs, or bean paste; indeed, there is an almost endless variety, both savory and sweet.
And variations of baozi can be seen regionally within China, including Tianjin 'dogs ignore' buns (狗不理包子 gǒubùlǐbāozi /go-boo-lee baoww-dzuh/) and Shanghai 'small basket buns' (小笼包 xiǎolóngbāo /sshyaoww-long-baoww/). They are a popular street food. Learn more about Chinese Steamed Stuffed Buns.
Congee (粥 zhōu /joh/) is probably the most common mainstay of the Chinese breakfast, it is a mild-flavored rice porridge that has been cooked long with plenty of water to soften the rice.
To give the congee flavor, congee is usually served with different toppings that vary by region, such as pickled vegetables, fermented tofu, peanuts, eggs, and meats.
Sometimes congee is made with black rice, which becomes purplish when cooked. Some find this colorful congee to be so flavorful; it doesn't require any toppings at all.
There are also many variations of congee based on different types of rice used and the additional ingredients, including beef, pork, preserved egg and meat (皮蛋瘦肉粥 pídàn shòuròu zhōu /pee-dan shoh-roh joh/), corn, and mung bean.
Many Chinese enjoy having a bowl of noodles for breakfast, and there is a wide variety of noodle dishes to choose from.
In Northern China, where wheat is more commonly eaten, a bowl of hot and flavorful wheat noodles is a popular breakfast dish.
In Wuhan, hot-and-dry noodles are eaten at breakfast by almost everyone. This dish is prepared by frying boiled noodles, drying them, then scalding them quickly and adding spicy condiments. The result is chewy and quite tasty.
Rice noodles are more often eaten in the South, along with steamed sweet potatoes, another Southern specialty. In Guilin, Guilin rice noodles is a very famous and popular cheap meal. Local people eat it not only as breakfast, but also lunch or dinner. This snack is made of boiled rice noodles, fried peanuts or soybeans, thin slices of different meats, chopped scallion, pickled mustard, and other ingredients that you can choose according to your preference.
Zongzi (粽子 zòngzi /dzong-dzuh/) are dumplings made of sweet glutinous rice, wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed.
They can be bought at street stalls and have a variety of tasty fillings, including red bean paste, egg yolk, fatty pork, chestnut, and lotus seeds. Zongzi are especially popular as a festival food and are frequently eaten during the Dragon Boat festival. Learn more about Zongzi.
Wontons (馄饨húntún /hwnn-twnn/) are a traditional Chinese breakfast food. This popular food can be found in most Chinese cities. Wontons are made of a square wonton wrapper (a dough skin made of flour and water) and fillings.
They can be boiled in fragrant and watery broth, steamed in a bamboo steamer, or fried in a high-heat wok.
They are available with a large variety of fillings, such as ground pork, shrimp, fish, mushroom, and vegetables.
Actually each region of China has its own variations on the wonton. For example, in Guangdong, the wonton is usually filled with shrimp and minced pork, and served with tiny noodles to make 'wonton noodles'.
In Sichuan, because the Sichuan people like spicy food, wontons are served with red chili oil, and called 'red oil fried hands'(红油抄手 hóngyóu chāo shǒu /hong-yoh chaoww shoh/).
In Shanghai or Suzhou, wontons are usually served with chicken soup or pork bone soup. They are best eaten with something dry, like a boiled egg or steamed bun. Learn more on How to Cook Wontons.
Chinese crepe wraps (煎饼 jiānbǐng /jyen-bing/) are quick-cooked thin pancakes or crepes filled with typically savory or spicy ingredients. A popular street food in China, they can be easily found, and are a favorite "breakfast on the run".
The crepes are usually wrapped around a deep-fried crispy dough slice, and topped with fried egg, finely chopped mustard pickles, scallions, coriander, and a spicy sauce.
Tangyuan (汤圆 tāngyuán /taang-ywen/ 'soup circle(s)') are ball-shaped dumplings made of sticky rice flour, with different fillings, such as white sugar, black sesame seeds, red bean paste, peanuts, walnuts, rose petals, and jujube paste, or any combination of two or three ingredients.
Tangyuan can be boiled, fried, or steamed, and are customarily served in clear soup, fermented rice soup (called 'sweet wine' 甜酒 tiánjiǔ /tyen-jyoh/), or in a ginger infused syrup. They are also a popular festival food eaten at the Lantern Festival.
Douhua (豆花 dòuhuā /doh-hwaa/ 'bean flower') or tofu pudding is a popular Chinese snack made with very soft tofu. Flavors of douhua vary by region. In the North, people like to eat savory douhua with soy sauce or salt. However, in the South, people prefer the sweet version with ginger and brown sugar syrup. People usually eat douhua together with youtiao and eggs for breakfast.
Youtiao (油条 yóutiáo /yoh-tyaoww/ 'oil strip(s)') are long, brown, deep-fried sticks of dough, which are a very common breakfast ingredient in China. They are usually are eaten together with soy milk or rice congee.
The most common drinks for breakfast in China are soy milk, cow's milk, yoghurt, and fruit juices, of which soy milk is the most popular one.
Doujiang (豆浆 dòujiāng /doh- jyang/) is a type of soy milk usually made with a blender. You can find freshly blended or boiled soy milk in urns at most breakfast stalls, which serve it sweet or savory. It is usually served warm and frequently eaten with youtiao. Soy milk with dough sticks is the most popular breakfast combo.
In China, most hotels (except some five-star or four-star hotels) only provide a Chinese-style (buffet) breakfast, with no Western food offered in the morning. Common breakfast options provided in most hotels are fried rice, fried noodles, ham, pork, pancakes, steamed stuffed buns, congee, boiled eggs, vegetables, and some drinks like milk, soy milk, coca cola, and orange juice.
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