We’re collaborating with a new app- Spoonhunt– to bring you the best foodie finds in China. Start your day the Chinese way with these classic dishes that locals all over the Middle Kingdom tuck into at breakfast time. These are our top picks from the northeastern provinces.
If you’re visiting China for the first time, you may not notice what Chinese people eat for breakfast. There’s no cereal, toast, or scrambled eggs, so what are locals lining up for at 7am?
Everything from temperature and humidity to taste palate and available ingredients, shape the first meal of the day in different regions across China. Here are a few to look out for on your journey through the Middle Kingdom.
Beijing’s most famous breakfast specialty is called Mung Bean Milk 豆汁 Dòuzhī. It’s been a local favorite for over a thousand years and it is the definition of an “acquired taste.” Similar to Soy Milk, Mung Bean Milk is made by soaking and crushing mung beans into a powder and fermenting them for days. The milk is created as a by-product.
While true old Beijingers love Douzhi and believe it helps them stay healthy and detox, most young people and foreigners can’t get past the stinky fermented egg smell. But Beijingers believe once you take 3 sips, you’ll be addicted! Often eaten with fried dough and pickle slices to dip in it, it has a grey coloring and very sour taste that definitely takes some getting use to. Liking Mung Bean Milk is the test of being a true Beijinger.
A popular street snack both early in the morning and late at night, Jian Bing originated in Tianjin. This Chinese Crepe 煎饼果子Jiānbing guǒzi is a fantastic breakfast cheap eat that will cost you under USD$1. It’s a delicious Chinese breakfast burrito made with a thin dough spread over a flat, circular griddle.
Egg, cilantro, mustard pickles, fried dough and sweet hoisin sauce are then added to create a breakfast that is the perfect balance of soft and crunchy, sweet and savory. It’s important to eat it when it’s hot and fresh off the grill so that the “pancake” stays soft and fluffy and doesn’t get stiff. Don’t be surprised by the long lines that form in front of the griddle!
Northeastern China 东北
Colloquially known as Dōngběi, Northeastern China has a very unique cuisine featuring wheat products as their main staple, unlike in the South where rice is heavily used. Their everyday, go-to breakfast is Dough Drop Soup 疙瘩汤 Gē da tāng. This popular breakfast soup consists of flour noodles, egg, tomato, vegetables and shrimp and is a comfort food for Northerners.
The dish gets its name from the mini dough “dumplings” floating in the soup that look a lot like Italian gnocchi. Don’t worry about the lumpiness of the dumplings, that’s what gives it its handmade charm. Dough Drop Soup is surprisingly filling and is perfect to warm your whole body in the harsh Northern China winters.
Made from grass jelly, sweet potato powder, prawn sauce, soy sauce and sesame sauce, Shandong’s signature breakfast is Men Zi 焖子Mèn zi. While this breakfast is often seen in other Chinese cities like Hebei, Tianjin and Henan, Shandong has their own signature version.
The protein-rich grass jelly is cut into small pieces and pan-fried to create a crispy layer on the outside of it. It has a chewy texture on the inside and a savory taste from the sauces. If you’re in Yantai, Shandong right on the coast, you may get fresh prawn and seaweed added as a bonus.
Want to find these traditional Chinese breakfast foods during your WildChina journey? Download the Spoonhunt app for your phone, where you can search Chinese restaurants, see English menus and even order with the waiter! Go to www.spoonhunt.com to download the app and get writing a list of ‘must-try’ dishes to show your WildChina guide. If you want to explore than just breakfast, our Gastronomic Tour of China with renowned food writer Fuchsia Dunlop is the perfect trip for you.