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January 29, 2012 / Katie

China’s Breakfast of Champions

You may be familiar with dim sum, China’s answer to the weekend brunch, but when it comes to the weekday morning or a quiet Sunday spent at home, what’s for breakfast? The classic Chinese breakfast consists of three things: a bowl of rice porridge, a fried cruller, and a tall glass of soy milk.

  1. Congee (粥; zhōu or juk in Chinese) is a type of porridge made by boiling rice in water over the course of several hours. It’s a popular breakfast dish throughout Asia and can be found in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Japan. In China, congee is often topped with salted duck eggs, minced pork, or pickled vegetables–these salty flavors complement the mild, somewhat bland taste of the rice gruel. You might also call congee the “chicken soup” of Chinese cuisine as it goes down easy when you have a sore throat or are feeling under the weather.
  2. Yóutiáo (油条) is often referred to as the Chinese doughnut or cruller. This greasy strip of dough is a cross between the Mexican churro and Native American fry bread. Its name translates literally to mean “oil stick,” and once you’ve bitten into one, you’ll understand why. Youtiao is not for the faint of heart.
  3. Soy milk or dòujiàng (豆浆) as it is served in Asia is a bit different from what most Americans may be used to buying at the supermarket. This beverage is served warm and unsweetened for breakfast, although you can usually ask for it to be iced or sweetened. The soy bean flavor takes some getting used to, but it’s a great alternative to dairy milk and helps to neutralize the youtiao‘s oily consistency. Just make sure the doujiang hasn’t been overcooked–there is nothing worse than burnt soy milk.

Not too long ago I enjoyed this very meal at Coluck Restaurant, nestled in the small mall that connects Elizabeth and Canal Streets. They have a number of great breakfast deals, most under $5, including other Taiwanese and Hong Kong specialties like fantuan, sweet buttered toast, and shark fin soup as well as Asian interpretations of American dishes like ham & egg ramen noodles and kimchi omelets.

Coluck Restaurant
16 Elizabeth Street
(between Bayard and Canal)

One Comment

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  1. Alexander Denzin / Oct 21 2012 11:52 am

    In Taiwan only old people eat it and most of the young people don’t like it at all, however yours on the picture looks quite nice.. I remember I was in hospital in Taipei and they only gave me that for breakfast, thankfully I also had strawberry milk and mixed it.. I still hated it :). The fried culler and soya milk however is still very popular on weekends, less on weekdays (more sandwiches)

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