What People Eat for Breakfast All Around the World

Feb 25, 2018

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People around the world agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But what they think goes into a good breakfast is an entirely different matter. For some, breakfast is synonymous with eggs; for others, it’s not a complete meal unless it includes rice. Whether you prefer sweet or savory, coffee or tea, healthy or hangover-relieving, here’s what you can expect for your morning meal in 10 different countries.

Australia: Avocado toast and flat white

Pretty much every cafe menu down under will have a variation on this pervasive dish. Sometimes called an avocado smash, it consists of creamy mashed avo served on toasted (usually sourdough) bread. From there every chef will put their own spin on it with garnishes like dukkah spice, feta cheese, fresh tomato, egg and so on. Impeccably made espresso drinks like flat whites (think: a less frothy cappuccino) and piccolos (mini-lattes) are de rigueur.

Where to try it: Bills in Sydney is a breakfast institution; its avocado on rye is spiked with lime, chili and coriander, with an optional poached egg on top.

China: Congee and green tea

This comforting rice porridge can be eaten at any meal but is often served at breakfast. You can make it sweet or savory depending on your preferences; common toppings include thinly sliced scallions, preserved or dried seafood, and meat floss (dried meat that’s been ground into something akin to cotton candy — don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). Congee is often served alongside another Chinese breakfast staple, deep fried dough sticks called youtiao, and washed down with a pot of green tea.

Where to try it: The seafood congee at Shanghai’s Xiao Hei Hao Qing [no website] takes half an hour to cook, so order some grilled oysters or scallops to snack on while you wait.

Philippines: Silog and kape

Silog is a combination of the word for “garlic fried rice” and the word for “egg.” There’s always a prefix added to denote what else they’re served with, such as sausage (longsilog), cured beef (tapsilog) or milkfish (bangsilog). This hearty breakfast is matched by an equally robust cup of filter or instant coffee (kape). Premixed sachets with creamer and sugar are popular with locals, like Nescafe 3-in-1.

Where to try it: The garden at Rustic Mornings by Isabelo is so bucolic you could almost forget you’re in Manila. Silog options include corned beef, sweet pork tocino and crispy tawili fish.

India: Idli sambar and kaapi

A common street food in Southern India, idli are round, doughy pillows of steamed rice and lentils with a slight fermented tang. The spongy texture is perfect for soaking up sambar, a soupy lentil-and-vegetable stew, and chutney. But any health benefit to this low-fat, high protein breakfast is mitigated by the rocket fuel filter coffee known as kaapi. Left to percolate overnight, the bracing concentrate is poured into a steel tumbler of steaming milk; most add a few spoonfuls of sugar to propel them into the day.

Where to try it: It’s not much to look at but Vinayaka Mylari [no website] in Mysore has somewhat of a cult following. Ordering is simple since there are only two options: idli or dosa (a crepe made from the same fermented batter) served on a banana leaf with sambar and coconut chutney.

Sambar with Idli South Indian Dish. (Photo by mukesh-kumar/Getty Images)
Sambar with Idli South Indian Dish. (Photo by mukesh-kumar/Getty Images)

Morocco: Bissara and mint tea

Perfect on a chilly morning, this fava bean soup is the culinary equivalent of a big warm hug. Spiced with cumin and red pepper, the cooked beans are blended into a thick, silky liquid, finished with olive oil and lemon juice, and served with a hunk of bread. (A thicker version of bissara can be eaten as a dip.) Moroccans also start their day with a super sweet mint and green tea blend and keep drinking it throughout the day. It’s traditionally poured from a height so it froths in the glass, which aerates the tea — and looks really cool.

Where to eat it: The best bissara comes from a hole-in-the-wall with no name that you just happen to stumble across. But if you’re in the Fez medina, you can also ask for directions to the Elminchaoui soup stand [no website] near Place Aachabine.

Turkey: Kahvalti and black tea

A traditional Turkish breakfast, called kahvalti, involves a spread of small dishes that covers the entire table. There are regional variations but the standard components are bread, eggs, a few different cheeses, several jams, clotted cream, honey, olives, and vegetables. This is all accompanied by a pot of black tea poured into little tulip shaped glasses. If thick Turkish coffee makes an appearance at all, it’s at the very end of the meal; the word kahvalti literally translates to “before coffee.” 

Where to eat it: On weekends people line up for the smorgasbord at Van Kahvalti Evi, which includes Kurdish specialties like kavut (fried wheat with walnuts and honey) and murtuga (scrambled eggs and flour).

Traditional Kahvalti breakfast. (Photo by Ridvan Ozdemir/Shutterstock.com)
Traditional Kahvalti breakfast. (Photo by Ridvan Ozdemir/Shutterstock.com)

Israel: Malawach and coffee

Like shakshuka (skillet eggs poached in tomato sauce), malawach is more of a weekend brunch item than an everyday breakfast. The Jewish-Yemenite flat bread is made by layering puff pastry sheets into something akin to a pancake. It comes out of the pan warm and flaky, and is served with hard-boiled egg, chopped tomatoes and a spicy green condiment called zhoug. The vibrant cafe culture means there are plenty of places to hang out, people-watch and sip an excellent espresso drink.

Where to eat it: Saluf & Sons [no website] in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Market does a modern take on malawach; it comes as a wrap, with scrambled eggs, or the traditional way with hard boiled egg and tomato. 

France: Bread and jam, and coffee

A French dinner may be a multi-course affair but breakfast is rather simple: buttered bread (usually baguette or brioche) with jam or honey. At home, people often pour themselves not a cup but a bowl of coffee or tea. Then they dip their bread into it which leaves jam and crumbs in the coffee and dumbstruck expressions on any nearby foreigners. 

Where to try it: In Paris, do as the locals do and pick up a loaf from one of the city’s celebrated bakeries; Du Pain et des Idées is considered one of the best in town. Slice, spread and dunk away.

Colombia: Arepa and coffee

Popular in both Colombia and neighboring Venezuela, these round cornmeal cakes vary by region from thin and crispy to doughy and sweet. They usually come stuffed or topped with things like butter, cheese, meat or scrambled eggs; along the coast, a deep-fried version with a cooked egg inside (arepa de huevo) is a common start to the day. The starchy, fried discs are usually washed down with a cup of filter coffee (made from local beans, obviously) and a freshly squeezed tropical fruit juice.

Where to try it: Try creative spins — like quinoa arepas or an arepa breakfast sandwich —at popular brunch spot Abasto in Bogota. If the wait is too long head down the street to Abasto Bodega, which has an abridged menu with the same arepas on offer.

Beef arepas with avocado and pickled onion. (Photo by rez-art/Getty Images)
Beef arepas with avocado and pickled onion. (Photo by rez-art/Getty Images)

Jamaica: Ackee with saltfish and hot chocolate

No Sunday brunch would be complete without this classic dish, which can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner too. Although ackee is technically a fruit, it somewhat resembles scrambled eggs when sauteed, and pairs perfectly with cured fish and a spinach-like green called callaloo. Don’t expect Jamaican hot chocolate to taste like the instant powdered stuff you’re used to. The rich, aromatic beverage is made with ground cacao, cinnamon, and sweetened with condensed milk.

Where to try it: Friendly and casual, Sips & Bites restaurant [no website] in Negril’s West End is as popular with locals as it is with tourists. The ackee and saltfish comes with lots of fun accoutrements, including callaloo, plantain, breadfruit, yam, avocado and a dumpling. 

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