5 Different Kinds Of Chinese Breakfasts and Where To Find Them In Los Angeles
Flaky BBQ pork buns, a typical dish seen during a dimsum Cantonese breakfast. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Chinese breakfast gets short shrift compared to dim sum, dumplings and noodles. Yet Chinese breakfast is some of the most affordable, bare-bones comfort food you can eat. Chinese breakfast food varies depending on what region it comes from, and showcases the breadth of the cuisine and culture of China. To help you expand your breakfast horizons, here are five different kinds of Chinese breakfasts and where you can get them in the San Gabriel Valley.
Congee aka porridge is a Cantonese breakfast staple. It is typically eaten alongside Chinese-style crullers known as you tiao. (Photo by David Wang)
CANTONESE BREAKFAST: Cantonese breakfast usually includes rice in the form of congee (rice porridge, or "jook" in the native dialect). Here rice is a staple at the breakfast as well as dinner table. Congee helps to keep the body warm, so it's the perfect breakfast food early in the morning. Most Chinese restaurants will add anything from seafood to sweet potatoes into their congee as it acts as an entree and as a beverage all in one. Other toppings for congee include dried pork, peanuts, or century eggs (which are deliciously savory, despite their appearances).
Another common item at the Cantonese breakfast table is "you tiao" or "yu za kuei", which literally translates into "deep-fried devils." The 'devils' are actually comprised of two pieces of dough twisted together and deep fried into a donut-like pastry. Although the crullers are found on many different Chinese breakfast tables, in the Cantonese style they are dipped into the warm congee, whereas in Northern Chinese and Taiwanese breakfast they are dipped into either sweet or salty soymilk. Other Cantonese breakfast specialties include dim sum, soup noodles, steamed rice rolls, and more. Most Cantonese breakfast joints also offer cheap breakfast sets that come with a complimentary drink and appetizer.
You can get authentic Cantonese breakfast at restaurants like Har Lam Kee, Delicious Food Corner, Sam Woo, to name a few. Har Lam Kee is located at 168 East Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park, (626) 569-9915. Delicious Food Corner is located at 2327 South Garfield Avenue in Monterey Park, (323) 726-0788. There are many Sam Woo restaurants located all around San Gabriel Valley and beyond.
Taiwanese breakfast staples include soy milk, Chinese-style crullers, fried scallion pancakes, fried taro cake, fried daikon cake, and various other sweet pastries. (Photo by Clarissa Wei)
TAIWANESE BREAKFAST: Get in and get out. Taiwanese breakfast restaurants are all about efficiency, just like the way it's done in Taiwan where everyone is in a rush during their morning commute. The majority of Taiwanese breakfast eateries are very casual with no waiter service. Order at the cashier, sit and bus yourself.
You tiao crullers dipped in soymilk are a common sight. The soymilk comes hot or cold, sweet or salty. Rice rolls or "fan tuan" are another specialty. The rice rolls are made of sticky rice wrapped around pieces of cruller, pork floss, and picked vegetables. Other must-order dishes include "dan bing" (egg and green onion pancake) and baked wheat cake (or "shao bing"). Both dishes have multiple variations with different toppings that you can customize with scallions, corn, pork floss, or other toppings. Other popular Taiwanese breakfast items include fried scallion pancakes, fried taro cake, fried daikon cake, and various other sweet pastries filled with black sesame, sweet potato, and red bean.
You can find Taiwanese breakfast at Four Sea, Yi Mei, or Huge Tree Pastry. Four Sea Restaurant has locations in San Gabriel, Arcadia, Hacienda Heights. Yi Mei has locations in Monrovia, Rowland Heights, San Gabriel. Huge Tree Pastry is located at 423 North Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park, (626) 458-8689.
A popular Chiu Chow breakfast is soup noodles that allow patrons infinite options for customization. Just for noodles alone, you can choose between rice noodles, thin, thick, flat, egg noodles, silver needle noodles, to name a few. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
CHIU CHOW BREAKFAST: Chiu Chow cuisine uses a lot of seafood and is considered to be healthier since it is less oily than its other Chinese counterparts. The most popular Chiu Chow breakfast dish is "chai tao kway," which is stir-fried radish cake with egg and preserved daikon that is dipped with vinegar. Another specialty is their soup noodles, which gives patrons infinite options for customization. Just for noodles alone, you can choose between rice noodles, thin, thick, flat, egg noodles, silver needle noodles (nicknamed "rat tail noodles" for their tail-like appearance), to name a few. You can also choose between a dry noodle that is soup-less or a traditional Chiu Chow broth, which is made with chicken and pork bones, rock sugar, fish sauce, and dried shrimp. The fried you tiao crullers found in other Chinese cuisines are dipped in soup in Chiu Chow breakfast. Chiu Chow cuisine also uses unique seasonings. A spicy BBQ satay chili sauce called sha cha is always available on the table, as are chopped peanuts and pickled green chilies.
You can get your Chiu Chow breakfast fix at Mien Nghia Noodle Express, Kim Kee, or Kim Ky. Mien Nghia is located at 7755 East Garvey Avenue in Rosemead, (626) 288-0177. Kim Kee is located at 1281 East Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, (626) 282-8878. Kim Ky is located at 1108 South San Gabriel Boulevard in San Gabriel,(626) 286-8839.
A toasted sweet pineapple bun stuffed with butter is a typical Hong Kong style breakfast. Usually, it is paired with coffee, milk tea, or iced lemon tea. (Photo by Raymond Chan)
HONG KONG-STYLE BREAKFAST: Hong Kong breakfast food is different from Cantonese breakfast food due to its past history as a British colony. Its East Meets West culture has created a distinctly Hong Kong cuisine, which is a fusion of Cantonese and English elements. Although you can find the typical Cantonese you tiao crullers and congee at Hong Kong style eateries, it's the uniquely Hong Kong items that stand out.
In Hong Kong at the local breakfast eateries, pan-fried eggs with instant noodles, macaroni soup with spam and thick toast with condensed milk are all common sights. Other specialties include fried pork cutlet buns, fried French toast, toasted pineapple buns stuffed with butter, and hot soup in a pastry puff to name a few. Common beverages at the Hong Kong breakfast table include milk tea, lemon ice tea, and hot Coca Cola with lemon and ginger.
You can find Hong Kong breakfast at restaurants like Delicious Food Corner, JJ Hong Kong Cafe, among many others. Delicious Food Corner is located at 2327 South Garfield Avenue in Monterey Park, (323) 726-0788. JJ Hong Kong Cafe is located at 447 West Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park, (626) 280-3833.
A mainland Chinese breakfast shares many similarities with Taiwanese breakfast, however Northern Chinese breakfast includes unique items such as tofu pudding, beef wrap rolls, purple rice rolls, mung bean fritters. (Photo by Clarissa Wei)
MAINLAND CHINESE/NORTHERN CHINESE BREAKFAST: A traditional Chinese breakfast shares many similarities with Taiwanese breakfast items. Items shared between both cultures include fried crullers, soymilk, green onion pancake, buns, rice rolls, daikon cake, and egg pancake just to name a few. But a distinctly Northern Chinese breakfast can also include unique items such as tofu pudding, beef wrap rolls, purple rice rolls, and mung bean fritters. One of the harder to find items is tofu brain, which is a breakfast item from Mainland China. The dish is not actually made of any brains, but rather a soft piece of tofu that is drenched in a thick gravy sauce. This is also where there are big distinctions between regions. Northern Chinese prefer the savory version, whereas Southerners prefer the sweet version. Northern Chinese breakfast also uses a lot of dough in their food since wheat is a staple in the region. Wheat noodle soup is a common breakfast sight, whereas Southern China has much more of an emphasis on rice and potato dishes. Other uniquely mainland Chinese breakfast dishes include fried dough with brown sugar, wheat buns, and zongzi.
You can find uniquely Northern Chinese breakfast at Garage Restaurant. Garage Restaurant is located at 123 North Lincoln Avenue in Monterey Park, (626) 573-9088