Breakfast - The Chinese Way
Chilly winter weather calls for warming, hot breakfast. Aside from the widely popular Cantonese dim sum, traditional morning meals consist of a variety of fare usually served warm or hot and vary depending on the region. Noodles for example are more common in southern parts of China. But there are some classics that are typical on a much larger scale across China.
The Chinese take on oatmeal depending on region and dialect is called jook or congee, or more simply, rice porridge, rice boiled down and simply thickened with water. However, beyond breakfast, it is popular as a meal throughout the day, a soothing comfort food when under-the-weather, and even a late night hangover cure. The subtly flavored porridge is always accompanied by a range of dishes like pickled vegetables, salty roasted peanuts, rousong (shredded dried pork), and fried, hard-boiled, or preserved eggs.
Jook from Taiwan
In place of coffee and donuts, fresh soy bean milk, whether cold or hot, sweet or savory, is always paired with youtiao, or fried crullers, for dunking. Crullers even take another form as fan tuang, which are crullers layered with shredded dried pork and sometimes minced pickles, all rolled in glutinous rice, essentially a Chinese breakfast roll.
Another staple is the fragrant and crispy congyoubing (pan-fried scallion pancakes) that are layers of thin dough studded with green onions, another dunking vessel for soy bean milk.
Chinese bakeries are always filled with an immense variety of savory and sweet breads and pastries for breakfast. Shao bing are one of the most popular – rectangle-shaped unleavened, layered pocket bread, topped with sesame seeds that come plain, filled with sliced pork and cilantro, or even sandwiched with the fried cruller. For something plainer and breadier, mantou is the choice. Made with wheat and leavened, these rolls are either steamed or deep-fried.
Turnip cake, made with shredded Chinese radish (daikon) and rice flour and pan-fried, may usually be found on dim sum carts, but can also be found at the table of a home-cooked breakfast.
A perfect meal in itself, baozi are steamed yeasted filled buns. The most ubiquitous kind is filled with pork, but sweet red bean paste or vegetables are other common fillings.
These are only a few of the classics to try, but they provide a whole new world of options if you’re craving Chinese morning fare aside from dim sum.
Where To Find Classic Chinese Breakfast in San Francisco:
China Live (Opening 2017)
4142 Geary Blvd. (b/w 5th and 6th Ave.)
445 Clement St. (b/w 5th and 6th Ave.)
Dong Bei Mama
4737 Geary (b/w 11th and 12th Ave.)
3398 Balboa Street (at 35th Ave.)