Breakfast dishes in China widely differ from region to region. Therefore, it is hard to list all the food that the Chinese eat for breakfast. I found a very interesting article which also focuses on this topic. It is detailed and also very real, but I still think there are lots of other things to say. So I will share more interesting facts based on some of those dishes mentioned in the article to help you build a more comprehensive view of Chinese breakfast. These dishes are easily found in snack streets every morning.
Soybean Milk and Oil Strip (more popular in Northern China)
Soybean milk(豆浆) and oil strips (油条, Youtiao). These two are my most favorite breakfast dishes, and they are always eating together with some Zhacai (榨菜, a type of pickled mustard plant stem).
The reason why they are always sold in a combo is that the mellow taste of the soybean milk can well balance the greasy of the oil strip, especially when you eat too many strips. My favorite way to eat is dipping the oil strip into the soybean milk, which will show you a much better taste.
Some of the soybean milk is made with a blender. You can find freshly blended or boiled soy milk in disposable cups at the breakfast stalls in China. It’s very convenient for a take-out.
Steamed Buns Stuffed with Meat, Soup, or Nothing (popular in most areas in China)
Let’s define the name of these three types of flour made foods at first.
Steamed buns stuffed with meat/ vegetable: Baozi (包子. Left picture)
Steamed buns stuffed with meat/ vegetable and soup (inside the bun): Tangbao (汤包, 汤means soup, more popular in Southern China. Middle picture)
Steamed buns stuffed with nothing inside: Mantou (馒头, more popular in Northern China. Right picture)
Chinese eat steamed buns at any meal, but these foods are especially popular as breakfast. It could be either salty or sweet depending on the region that you eat them. Salt flavored buns are stuffed with ground pork, eggs, and vegetables. Sweet flavored buns are stuffed with bean paste, creamy custard, sesame seeds, and sugar. They are also very convenient for a take-out.
And the most famous buns with soup inside is Guantangbao (灌汤包), which may contain shrimps/ pork/ crab inside and have a much thinner skin than Baozi. The reason why it has soup inside is that the chef will put a small piece of frozen soup cube into the fillings before the buns are steamed.
Mantou is a very common staple food in northern China. I do not have any strong feelings on this type of food because it has to been eaten with other dishes. Mantou itself has no other taste unless you add milk when you make it.
Tofu Pudding (salty: Northern China; sweet: Southern China)
Tofu pudding sounds like a name of a dessert. Actually, its recipes and Chinese names are quite different in Northern and Southern China.
Tofu pudding is a very soft tofu, which is made from raw beans. People in north will eat the tofu pudding with soy sauce or salt, and they may add meat and vegetables in it. However, in the south, people prefer the sweet version with ginger and brown sugar syrup. Some restaurant will put bubbles or red beans on the tofu pudding, which makes it really looks like a dessert.
Rice Noodles (popular in southern and southwestern part in China)
Rice noodles (米粉/米线) are a good choice if you are allergic to gluten. They are made of rice although they look like wheat noodles and the taste is different.
Rice noodles are more commonly eaten in the south, especially in Guangxi, Hunan and Yunnan provinces.
In Guilin (a famous Tourism City in Guangxi), Guilin rice noodles are a very famous and popular cheap meal. Local people eat the dish not just for breakfast, but also for lunch or dinner. This snack is made with boiled rice noodles, fried peanuts or soybeans, thin slices of different meat, chopped scallions, pickled mustard, and other ingredients that you can choose according to your preferences.
Rice Porridge or Congee (common in all regions in China)
Congee (粥) is probably the most common mainstay of the Chinese breakfast. It is a mild-flavored rice porridge that has been cooked for a long time with plenty of water to soften the rice.
To give the congee some flavor, it is usually served with different toppings that vary by regions, such as pickled vegetables, fermented tofu, peanuts, eggs, and meat.
Sometimes congee’s flavor is sweet. Usually, it is made from red beans, coix seeds, peanuts, and black rice. Some find this colorful sweet congee to be so flavorful that it doesn’t require any toppings at all.
Wontons and Dumplings (popular everywhere in China)
Wontons (馄饨) and dumplings (饺子) are two similar types of food, which are composed of a square or round wrapper (a dough skin made of flour and water). Both of the two foods are available with a large variety of fillings, such as ground pork, shrimp, fish, mushrooms, and other vegetables.
Wontons can be boiled in a fragrant and watery broth, steamed in a bamboo steamer, or fried in a high-heat wok. Sometimes, wontons are also served with noodles to make “wonton noodles” in Guangdong province; or it can be cooked by adding spicy red oil on it, which names Red oil Chaoshou (红油抄手, 红油means red oil – a special pepper oil; 抄手is the name that people in Sichuan call wonton) in Sichuan province.
The stuffing found in dumplings is similar to that of wontons, and the cooking method is similar too.
Morning Tea and Dim Sum (the most famous and popular morning tea is in Guangdong, Macau, and Hongkong)
Morning tea (早茶) is a traditional custom for breakfast. It’s not a dish; it’s an aggregation of tons of different types of small dishes. This traditional custom can be found in Chinatowns all over the world. It is extremely popular in southeast Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau.
The dishes enjoyed with morning tea are called dim sum (点心) and are usually served in a small bowl or basket. They vary from rice to noodles, dumplings, or buns. 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.
People living in those area loves eating morning tea with their friends or family. They may spend nearly 2-4 hours (a whole morning) to finish their breakfast. It’s a good way to gather everyone around a big table, chatting with each other and enjoy the tasty food as well.