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 southeastern 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.
Fujian is located in Southeastern China and their signature breakfast is Satay Noodles 沙茶面 Shā chá miàn. Featuring fresh seafood ingredients like shrimp and cuttlefish, Fujian breakfast is savory and spicy. Most restaurants will have their own homemade satay sauce, making every place unique.
The noodles are tossed and added to the thick, clay colored soup (thanks to the addition of ground peanuts). From there, this breakfast almost turns into a DIY meal where you can pick the rest of the ingredients that go into the soup. If you happen to sit down at a restaurant to eat it, they’ll serve it over an open flame to keep the soup boiling and hot while you eat it.
The crispy cousin of the Jiangsu Soup Dumplings, Zhejiang Province local breakfast favorite is Pan Fried Dumplings 生煎包 Shēng jiān bāo. Filled with meat and soup, these dumplings have thicker skin and are pan-fried on one side to ensure a crispy bottom.
Thanks to the unique way these dumplings are made, they are actually half pan-fried and half steamed. The crispy bottom is complimented by the softed, steamed top holding in the delicious, savory soup. To properly eat them, it’s best to bite a tiny hole in the soft top and drink some of the soup out. If you bite right into it, the soup will spurt out all over you instead. Eastern China loves dumplings for breakfast!
Soup Dumplings 灌汤包 Guàn tāng bāo is an expat favorite in Shanghai, but in Jiangsu province it’s a delicious breakfast meal. The skin is delicately wrapped around the meat and soup inside so as not to break open. In Jiangsu, you can get the normal pork gelatin kind or the special, regional crab roe version.
Depending on your mood, you can choose small soup dumplings that come in a large bamboo basket, or go big with the giant single Guan Tang Bao. The large type comes in it’s own steamer and a straw. Instead of eating the dumpling, you use a straw to drink the savory soup before chomping on the warm bun and meat inside. Now you have an excuse to have soup dumplings earlier in the day!
Arguably Shanghai’s most popular breakfast food is Shanghai Big Wontons 上海大馄饨 Shànghǎi dà húntún. Wontons come in different shapes and forms based on location, but Shanghai’s wontons are big and round. Local Shanghai streets are filled with Wonton vendors in the morning.
What makes the Shanghai version so special is the size, shape and filling. Resembling a ravioli, the wrapper “ears” are folded inwards and the wonton is cooked in chicken stock. For those wanting the real, local Shanghai breakfast, give three delicacies wontons a try. The filling consists of pork, shrimp and fish and can be served in soup or dry.
Getting into the southern cities and provinces of China, Guangdong’s favorite breakfast is influenced by Cantonese cuisine and dim sum. Chang Fen 肠粉 Cháng fěn is a rice noodle roll often served with signature char siu pork inside. While the literal translation of the dish means “Pig Intestine Noodle,” rest assured the name comes from the shape, not the ingredients.
In Cantonese cuisine, the presentation of the Chang Fen is just as important as the taste. The noodle should be slightly transparent to reveal the stuffing and the edges are sometimes cut to make it more even. They are often served in threes and are dipped in a generous amount of sweet soy sauce to make the already sweet char siu even sweeter!
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.