China has a vast territory. The different climate between the north and south leads to different eating habits. Chinese breakfast food has accordingly evolved and becomes rich and diverse. In China, every region in the east, west, south, and north has its representative breakfast food. With the convenience of transportation in China in recent years, the barriers to regional cuisine are gradually weakening, and the special diets of many small places have also spread to large cities in China.
The traditional Chinese breakfast is mainly based on pasta. The most popular cooking method is stewing, steaming, frying in deep oil and frying in shallow oil. Let’s take a look at what is the most traditional breakfast food in China.
Noodles (Noodle soup)
Noodles have a history of more than 4,000 years in China. It is a convenient and nutritious food. You can eat it at any time (morning, noon and evening). There are many noodle restaurants in China that operate from morning to night. The most common ones are noodle soup and fried noodles. In China’s breakfast, people eat more noodle soup. The fried noodles are usually selected during lunch or dinner.
- Lanzhou Beef Ramen (Hand-pulled Noodles)
Lanzhou Beef Ramen has a good reputation in China. It is one of the top ten noodles in China selected by the Ministry of Commerce and the China Hotel Association. It is even hailed as the No. 1 noodle of China! Lanzhou Ramen originates from Lanzhou, Gansu Province in northwestern China, but now you can find Lanzhou Ramen restaurants in major cities in China. They sell other foods in addition to Lanzhou beef ramen, but I suggest you only need to taste the special Lanzhou ramen and that will be enough. If you have an opportunity to go to China, I would recommend that you go to Lanzhou to eat this type of noodle, because only in Lanzhou can you taste the most authentic Lanzhou beef ramen!
The noodle soup of Lanzhou Ramen is an exclusive secret beef soup with a unique aroma and taste. The noodle soup together with ramen, the sliced beef, and the sprinkled chopped green onion and parsley, forms a bowl of Lanzhou beef ramen. If you like spicy taste, you can add chili oil by yourself.
The noodles of Lanzhou Ramen have different specifications. Before you order, you can tell the chef of the ramen what size you want and the chef will make noodles according to your requirements. Generally, you will see one bowl of Lanzhou beef ramen being presented to you in 3 to 5 minutes.
- Suzhou-style Noodle Soup
Suzhou is located in the eastern part of China and very close to Shanghai. Although the cuisine of the city is not based on the food made of flour, Suzhou people like to eat a bowl of Suzhou-style noodle soup at breakfast. Nowadays, Suzhou-style noodle soup enjoys a good reputation in the eastern region! The most exquisite thing about Suzhou-style noodle soup is the making of noodle soup. It must be light and not oily and ensure that people will not be thirsty after eating. The noodle soup is divided into white soup and red soup. The white soup tastes light, while the red soup is added with a little soy sauce and sugar, so the taste of the red soup will be slightly thicker.
Another feature of the Suzhou-style noodle soup is the topping which can be understood as the side dish of the noodle soup. There are many kinds of toppings. Different noodle restaurants also have their own innovative toppings. The common ones are made of pork, fish, shrimp or vegetables. On May 18, 2018, the Suzhou-style noodle soup set a world record of “the world’s original soup with most toppings” with 518 kinds of toppings, and obtained the certificate issued by the British World Record Certification Agency (WRCA)!
The Suzhou-style noodle soup is lighter in taste and slightly sweeter. If you like spicy taste, the Suzhou-style noodle soup maybe not suitable for you. Suzhou’s noodle restaurants generally only operate from morning to noon and will not operate from afternoon to the evening, because Suzhou people prefer to eat noodles at breakfast.
- Hot Dry Noodles
Hot dry noodles are the most representative breakfast food in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. It is also one of the top ten noodles in China! In Wuhan, from the aged people up to the age of sixty or seventy to the children down to the age of three or four, all of them will eat hot dry noodles at breakfast. The biggest feature of hot dry noodles is that there is no soup. The noodles are made with alkaline noodles. After boiling, drain the water and bring the noodles to the bowl. Add the prepared sesame sauce, brine and green onion, and mix with some pickled sour beans or diced radish, stir well and then a bowl of hot dry noodles will be finished. You can adjust the spicy degree by adding spicy oil according to your own taste. Some noodle restaurants will also provide parsley.
Hot dry noodles are without soup. People in Wuhan are used to eat this noodle together with a bowl of egg rice wine or soy milk. In summer, mung bean soup is also the best choice. The most famous hot dry noodle restaurant in Wuhan is called “Cai-Lin-Ji ”. If you have the opportunity to go to Wuhan, don’t miss the hot dry noodles of this restaurant. Finally, as a reminder, don’t try hot dry noodles in cities outside Wuhan!!
Many people mistook Chinese rice noodles for noodles when seeing them for the first time, but in the eyes of Chinese people, rice noodles are completely diffent from noodles. Rice noodles originate from southern China, and noodles are popular mainly in north China. Rice noodles and noodles are relatively similar in cooking methods and eating methods, but the taste of the two is completely different. The noodles taste tight and chewy, while the rice noodles are relatively soft and elastic.
- Guilin Rice Noodles
There are rice noodle restaurants in the streets and alleys of Guilin City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Rice noodles are the most common breakfast food in Guilin. Because each restaurant’s soup and brine are different, Guilin rice noodles have also accordingly evolved into different flavors and eating methods. The most famous ones are marinaded vegetable rice noodles, horse meat rice noodles, and sirloin rice noodle soup.
In Guilin, Guilin rice noodles are a collective name for the local rice noodles which has a variety of flavors and styles. But if you are not in Guilin, you can only eat the most common Guilin rice noodle soup in other cities.
- Hunan Rice Noodles
Hunan Province is located in the middle of China. The cuisine of this region has a strong taste and features spicy. Hunan rice noodles are the first choice for breakfast for locals. There is a saying in the local area saying that “the people in Hunan can live without eating rice but cannot without eating rice noodles”. From this sentence, we can also see how deep people in Hunan love rice noodles.
Hunan rice noodles and the Suzhou-style noodle soup have a similar aspect, that is, both of them have a wide variety of toppings. The most common topping is the one cooked with beef and pork. Hunan people like spicy food, so if you are planning to eat a bowl of authentic Hunan rice noodles, please get ready for sweating!
Wonton (Wonton Soup)
Wonton is a kind of food that wrapping meat fillings in a thin dough sheet. After cooking, wonton will be placed in soup together for eating. Wonton originated in northern China and is a traditional local cooked wheaten food. It is simple and economical. Now you can see this type of cooked wheaten food in any city in China. It is not limited to the north of China and has developed into a unique style of cuisine in different regions.
- Clear Soup Wonton
Clear soup wonton is the most common way to eat wonton at breakfast. With light taste, the clear soup wonton is suitable for all ages.
- Red Oil Wonton
Red oil wonton with fragrant soup and spicy taste is a special dish in Sichuan.
- Wonton Noodles
Wonton noodles are one of the most famous breakfast foods in Guangdong Province in southern China. The morning tea culture in Guangdong is very prosperous. Although there are many kinds of foods in early tea, the wonton noodles have been enduring for a long time. Combining noodles and wontons is absolutely the greatest innovation of the local food culture!
Tangyuan (Dumplings made of glutinous rice)
Tangyuan is a dessert made from glutinous rice flour wrapping fillings. The most common filling is made from black sesame, sugar, and lard. Tangyuan has a long history in China and is one of the most traditional foods in China. On the Lantern Festival every year, many families will use Tangyuan as breakfast. On this day, eating Tangyuan means family reunion and happy life!
Porridge is one of the staple foods on the Chinese table. It is also very common at breakfast. Made with cereals and ingredients, porridge is a thick paste-like food that is light, nutritional and healthy. Guangdong is the place where the porridge culture is most prosperous, and you can taste rice porridge of various flavors that are not only unique in taste but also have health effects.
- Preserved Egg Lean Porridge
Preserved egg lean porridge is the most widely known porridge in China. Many people often make this food at home, because it is really simple — you just need to add preserved eggs and leans to the rice porridge and then cook it.
- Tingzai Porridge (literally meaning: porridge cooked on the little boat)
Tingzai porridge is the most famous porridge food in Guangdong. Around ten ingredients make a bowl of simple rice porridge rich in taste. This porridge has an irreplaceable position in the porridge culture of Guangdong.
- White Rice Porridge
White rice porridge is the most common porridge in Chinese homes in fact. The white rice porridge together with mantou (steamed buns), baozi (steamed stuffed buns), and pickles, is the most traditional way to eat Chinese breakfast!
Mantou (literally meaning: steamed buns) and Baozi (literally meaning: steamed stuffed buns)
Mantou and Baozi are Chinese old traditional cooked wheaten food. They are a kind of food that is steamed after flour fermentation. They are generally in hemispherical shape and are one of the most common breakfast foods in Chinese families. The difference between Mantou and Baozi is that Mantou is steamed with pure flour, while baozi is filled with fillings. You can think of baozi as the Mantou wrapping fillings.
There are some differences in the eating method between Mantou and Baozi. Chinese people are accustomed to eat Mantou together with white rice porridge and pickles at breakfast, and this is a very traditional and classic combination. Since Baozi contains rich fillings, so usually, Chinese people will not eat it deliberately together with other foods and the most common method for eating Baozi is to have it together with a cup of drink or a bowl of white rice porridge.
Whether it is Mantou or Baozi, their forms are not single. The Chinese have evolved a lot of styles on the cooked wheaten food. From the picture below you can see that even the Mantou made with pure flour can present different flavors. The Baozi are also varied in taste due to the fillings made in different places. The common types of fillings are vegetables, pork, beef and red bean paste (sweet).
Steamed Sponge Cake (Rice steamed sponge cake)
This is a kind of food that is steamed with fermented rice milk. The texture is fluffy and slightly sweet, and it belongs to traditional Chinese food. When I was very young, I often saw street food stalls selling this food on the way to school in the morning. People usually use it as breakfast.
Steamed dumplings are a special way of eating dumplings. Chinese dumplings are a staple food for the people in the north of China, but in the south, dumplings appear more in the form of snacks. Nowadays, steamed dumplings have become one of the specialty snacks in southern China and often appear in breakfast.
Deep-fried Dough Stick (Youtiao)
The deep-fried dough stick is an old and traditional cooked wheaten food in Chinese breakfast. You can see it in any city in China.
There are two most common combinations when the Chinese people eating deep-fried dough sticks for breakfast. One is to eat it served with a bowl of soy milk. You can soak the deep-fried dough stick in soy milk and the taste is unique! The other is to eat it together with the noodle soup or the rice noodle soup. You can take a bite of the noodle or the rice noodle, then a bite of the deep-fried dough stick, and then drink a mouthful of soup, you will feel comfortable all over the body!
The Chinese doughnut is a unique kind of breakfast food in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. It has a history of hundreds of years in the local area. It is deep-fried food of rice milk added with sesame. It tastes crispy and fragrant. The Chinese doughnut and the hot dry noodle are the favorite breakfast foods for Wuhan people. They often eat the two together, but a cup of drink is also needed, otherwise people will feel very thirsty.
Pancakes are very common in Chinese breakfast. There are different ways of making and eating in different areas. The most famous one is the Jianbingguozi in Tianjin. Although pancake originates from the north, it is now available in many cities in the south. Like Baozi, pancakes are also one of the most popular breakfast foods in China. Pancakes are the best choice for office workers who can eat pancakes while walking and avoid being late for work.
- Jianbingguozi (A kind of thin pancake wrapping a deep-fried dough stick and some vegetables or else inside)
Jianbingguozi is a thin pancake applied with a layer of special sauce and wrapping different ingredients and side dishes inside.
- Beef Pancake
Beef pancake is a kind of pancake that you can see in many cities in China. The most common fillings of such pancakes are usually made with pork or beef.
Glutinous Rice Wrapping Deep-fried Dough Stick
This is a snack in the regions south of the Yangtze River of China. It is usually served as a breakfast. It uses the boiled glutinous rice to wrap the deep-fried dough stick and pickles, and then sprinkle some sesame or peanut powder from outside. It’s really delicious!
Tofu jelly is a kind of traditional food that is very common in China. It is also often seen in breakfast. Originally, it is an intermediate product when making tofu, but the Chinese have developed it into a specialty snack. There are two tastes of tofu jelly, namely, sweet, and salty. Generally, people in the north like to eat the salty one, while people in the south like to eat the sweet one. In Sichuan, a sour and spicy taste has also been evolved in the tofu jelly!
Chinese breakfast also has its traditional drinks, among which soy milk and rice wine are the most popular, but in summer people prefer to drink green bean soup!
As a traditional Chinese drink, soymilk often appears in breakfast. It is a kind of bean drink produced by grinding, filtering, and boiling. Rich in nutrients, it is deeply loved by Chinese people and is the best partner for various breakfast foods!
- Rice Wine
Rice wine has a history of thousands of years in China. It is a kind of brewed drink made from fermented steamed glutinous rice or rice. It tastes fragrant and sweet. Many people like to drink it while having breakfast, but please don’t give it to children because the rice wine has lower alcohol content.
- Mung Bean Soup
Mung bean soup is a soup made from mung bean and water. It has the effect of clearing away heat. Chinese people like to drink it on a hot summer day.
After reading so much about the Chinese breakfast, do you want to taste them? In fact, there are a lot of other traditional breakfast foods in China. Every region and city has its own unique breakfast habits. Only when you go to the local area can you really understand the local breakfast diet.