Forget Weetabix, croissants and Pop-Tarts, breakfasts in China are nothing like those you'd eat in the West.
The Chinese tend not to go for overly sweet foods to start their day like we do over here, which is likely to prompt unadventurous foreigners to run in search of the nearest Starbuck's or Krispy Kreme as soon as the sun comes up! While we can't promise you that you'll fall in love with these dishes straight away – it will definitely take a Western palette some getting used to for sure – Chinese breakfasts are really something special and certainly won't leave you feeling hungry.
"We're very savoury people we are," said School of Wok head chef Jeremy Pang in a recent interview with Talk Radio Europe about what makes a good Chinese breakfast. Check out what else he had to say by listening to the full show at http://www.talkradioeurope.net/listen/on-demand (Jeremy was on at around 09:25 on Friday 19th July).
If you're visiting China and want a more authentic taste of the culture, it's worth sacking off that bland morning buffet and venturing out of your hotel to try out what's on offer...it'll certainly be an experience you won't forget. While dishes differ widely from region to region, below is a list of a few different belly-filling meals that the Chinese often eat to start their day.
One of the most common dishes associated with a typical Chinese breakfast is porridge: not the thick, milky oat porridge that we're so used to, but a savoury, thin rice porridge made with water or stock...so you can forget about stirring your jam or honey through this one! However don't worry, 'congee' isn't as bland as it sounds; it's always served with a variety of different tasty, savoury toppings, including salted eggs, grilled meat and fish, pickles, peanuts, vegetables, or even pig's blood (yes, you heard me right!)...the options are endless.
Next up we have 'youtiao' (or crullers): salted deep-fried doughnut-type strips (not dissimilar in appearance to a yumyum or churro) used to dunk into congee or a warm bowl of sweet soy milk. Not the healthiest option for your first meal of the day, but still probably better for you than a Full English!
Another famous dish served from street-food stalls is 'jianbing': a large, wafer-thin pancake similar to a crepe or gallette but folded to incase a range of (yes you guessed it) savoury fillings, including egg, soybean paste, chilli sauce, crispy crackers, spring onions and coriander – a wonderful combination of flavours and textures.
'Bao', steamed bread-like buns, are often a popular choice for breakfast in China and are usually eaten on the go. These fluffy balls of goodness can come with a variety of savoury fillings (and sweet if you must!), but barbecued pork (char sui) is our by far favourite – check out the School of Wok recipe for char sui bao.
If you often find yourself looking for an authentic taste of the East in London but don't know where to look, why not come along to School of Wok's 'Flavours of China' interactive food tour of Chinatown on Saturday mornings, where our chefs will take you to their favourite places to grab breakfast and other quick eats.
The tours also include a mini shopping trip to the area's elaborate Chinese supermarkets, where you will pick up the ingredients needed to cook up an amazing Oriental feast later that afternoon.
To read more about the Flavours of China tours and for information on how to book, click here. For all other Asian cooking classes in London, check out our class calendar.