Breakfasts Around the World – Asian Edition

Brunch has always been my thing, because it’s so incredibly delicious, but mainly because I can’t wake up early (where my night owls at!).

If, however, if I am somehow up early, my tummy grumbles for some good grub with a good cup of joe to kick start my day. Granted, my tummy grumbles for some good grub at any time of the day but to start off the day with a good breakfast is nothing short of a blessing.

Here’s a list of our favourite breakfasts in Asia – iconic to their countries – but they have also seen decades of cultural influence, and some from the West. Seeing that interplay and infusion of cultures is what makes food such a universal language.

Japan – Steamed Rice & Miso Soup

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There’s something quintessentially zen and simple about Japan, whether that comes in the form of their clothing, their temples, or their homes (shoutout to Muji). This extends to their food as well. I mean, how many of us have salivated with just a plate of three sashimi slices in front of us?

Breakfast in Japan isn’t complicated as well, and it almost always features gohan (steamed rice) and miso soup. Aside from that, there can be any combination of grilled fish, natto (fermented soybeans), and pickles like tsukemono. Expect flavours of umami with the tsukemono providing a nice contrast of crunchy texture to the dish.

It’s simple, it’s good, you can’t go wrong.

Korea – Rice & Banchan

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Being it’s neighbour, and even being colonised by Japan from 1910 to 1945, it’s not very surprising that some cultural influences are shared by both countries.

While the Japanese have their Gohan set, Koreans dig in to their rice and banchan (small side dishes). These banchan usually comprises of soft tofu, some form soup or stew and gyeran-jjim (steamed eggs). The flavour profile is similar to that of Japan, though it can argued that it has stronger and bolder flavours when it comes to breakfasts.

And who can forget that side of kimchi (fermented cabbage) to top it all off.

Taiwan – Soy Milk & Fritters

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Travel down from the Japan/Korea peninsulas, and you’ve reached Taiwan. Ever popular for their Bubble Teas and Chicken Cutlet, along with their myriad of night markets, some call Taiwan a haven for foodies.

Dou Jiang (Soy Milk) and You Tiao (Deep-fried Dough Fritters) is to the Taiwanese what Coffee and Toast is to the rest of the world. A good You Tiao would have a nice crispy exterior with a soft and fluffy interior, creating that nice balance of texture and mouthfeel. Pair it with a cup of Dou Jiang (you can even dip it in), and you’ve got yourself a pretty amazing breakfast.

Even JJ Lin (Singaporean singer, songwriter and all that jazz) came up a song named 豆浆油条 (Dou Jiang You Tiao), alluding to their perfect match. You know what to do the next time you’re in Taiwan.

Thailand – Congee

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Thailand’s Joke is not dissimilar to the Chinese version (Jook) we’ve all grown up with. No joke. They even sound similar (not surprising as there are a lot of Chinese influence in Thailand).

Thai rice porridge/congee has a thick consistency and usually features a poached egg inside the porridge. Some may add minced meat and liver slices, but here’s what it boils down to – it’s simple comfort food.

It’s so appealing that even Macdonald’s Thailand serves its own version!

Hong Kong – Macaroni Soup & Milk Tea

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From Cha Chaan Tengs (Tea Restaurants or Diners) to Dim Sum, Hong Kong is oozing with good food. Dim Sum has taken the spotlight internationally, and perhaps deservedly so with the plethora of dishes available and the communal-style eating.

One slightly overshadowed, but rather iconic, dish is Hong Kong’s Macaroni Soup breakfast. A staple of all Cha Chaan Tengs out there, this traditional bowl of Macaroni Soup is the comfort food for Hong Kongers. Often paired with luncheon meat, it’s a no frills, soupy dish that gets everyone going back for more.

Don’t forget to get a cup of signature Hong Kong Milk Tea (Hot or Iced) to pair with your breakfast. Just a forewarning, some of the milk teas in Hong Kong, like the ones at Tsui Wah (a popular chain of Cha Chaan Tengs) do not come with sugar. This leaves a slight bitterness at the end which may be what you’re not used to.

Singapore – Kaya Toast & Eggs

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Singapore’s cuisine spans a rich selection, but when it comes to breakfast, there’s none as iconic as soft-boiled eggs and kaya toast, all washed down with tea or coffee prepared to taste.

Don’t let its simplicity fool you – the tiny saucers of egg, petite squares of bread and compact cup of beverage all add up to a surprisingly satisfying and filling breakfast, one that everyone from working professionals to young students swear by.

The secret to its popularity lies in how flexible this meal can be. Every component is customisable, allowing you to tweak sweet, bitter, salty and umami to your exact preferences.   

Vietnam – Bahn Mi Op La

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Rounding off our Asian edition of breakfasts around the world would be the Banh Mi Op La of Vietnam.

Banh Mi is the quintessential Vietnamese-style baguette sandwich. This goes back to their days of being a French colony. Banh Mi Op La features a plate of fried eggs, slices of ham and fishcake, along with caramelised onions. You can have it separately and dip your bread into the runny yolk or have it the way I like it – all together.

Cut the baguette in half and fill it up with the mixture, then take a bite out of it. Thank me later. It’s part savoury, part creamy, all round goodness. Down it with a cup of Iced Vietnamese Coffee, and you’ve got an awesome start to your day.

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