As people travel the world, one aspect of their lives which is usually the last to become assimilated to their new culture is their breakfast. There is no place this is better exhibited than in the globalization of food over the past century, which focuses disproportionately on lunch and dinner cuisine.
China is no exception to this rule. For most foreigners living in the Middle Kingdom, acclimation to Chinese lunch and dinner cuisine takes but a matter of weeks or months. Breakfast, however, is a completely different matter, as foreigners often either stockpile a cache of foreign breakfast products at the nearest Wal-Mart or Metro, or simply skip breakfast all together, and take their first food of the day at lunch.
The same generalization can be applied for Chinese living in Western countries as well. I can honestly say I have had several Chinese people tell me that they have never tasted anything more disgusting in their lives than a donut (except maybe cheese). Most of my Chinese friends in the US either stick to Chinese fare as best they can in the morning, or reluctantly subsist on toast until lunch.
So what exactly do the Chinese eat for breakfast? The continental breakfast at my hotel in Shanghai provides a typical sampling. Here it is.
|In the first steamer, we have tea eggs, a common breakfast snack in most parts of the Middle Kingdom.|
|Next we have 2 kinds of baozi (steamed buns). The first ones on the left have pork balls inside, while the ones on the right are stuffed with vegetables.|
|This unappetizing-looking dish is stir fried cabbage. It actually tastes a lot better than it looks.|
|boiled sweet potato (left) and fried Chinese bread (right)|
|Probably the most common mainstay of the Chinese breakfast is white rice porridge, which consists of nothing more than rice, and a lot of water.|
|To give the porridge flavor, porridge is usually topped with a variety of toppings, such as (clockwise starting from bottom) peanuts, fermented tofu, spicy pickled radishes, and pickled mustard.|
|In addition to the standard porridge, there is also dark porridge: It has a little more flavor than the white stuff so it usually doesn’t require any toppings.|
|Although the Chinese stay close to their roots for their morning meal, elements of Western cuisine are beginning to seep in, as we can see from the morning beverages which include soy milk (traditional Chinese drink) along with fruit juice and milk (both relatively recent imports from the West)|
|In addition to beverages, other common Western breakfast foods have becoming more and more common in Chinese breakfast as well, especially in large cities like Shanghai. Here we have toasted white bread with peanut butter, jelly, butter, and a sugary dairy spread (not sure what to call it in English) which I find quite tasty.|
|For my own breakfast, I have generally been combining the Western and Chinese elements together like so. Bon Apetit!|