Tofu Brains, Pork Blood Soup, Would You Dare Try These Breakfast

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Having lived with a Chinese family now for almost three weeks, being surrounded by porridge-like congee at the breakfast table is not as baffling as it once was.  

Whilst I eat my Western cereal, my Chinese counter-parts tuck into their bowls of rice porridge 米粥 (mǐ zhōu), adding century-old eggs, salted fish, fermented bean curd, pork floss…etc

But rice congee is in fact rather tame in the world of Chinese breakfast delicacies, as I later found out.

Inspired by the vast variety of cultures that I have seen whilst travelling throughout China, I set about finding local breakfast delicacies from each province.

Here is what I found:

 

Map of China and its provinces:

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「 Shanghai 」

 

Tofu Brains 
豆腐脑 (dòufu nǎo)

Also known as douhua, this is basically congealed tofu, but very soft and slimy. It can be both sweet and salty. 

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Stinky Tofu
臭豆腐干 
(chòu dòufu gān)

Also a popular snack throughout China, this treat is known mainly for its strong odour.

It is marinated in brine made from fermented milk, vegetables and meat.

After two days, the marinated tofu is then either eaten cold, steamed, stewed or, most commonly deep-fried and eaten with chilli sauce.

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「 Shandong 」

 

Men Zi
焖子 (mèn zi)

Shandong’s signature breakfast is made from grass jelly, sweet potato powder, sesame sauce, prawn sauce and soy sauce.

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「 Sichuan 」

 

Hot & Sour Noodles
酸辣粉 (suān là fěn)

This dish has a unique flavour, as it combines the sourness from Chinese rice vinegar with the spiciness from the chilli pepper oil. Toasted peanuts and soybeans are also added on top to give a special crispy texture.

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「 Guangdong 」

 

Pork Blood Soup
猪血汤 (zhū xiě tāng)

A soup made up of coagulated pork blood (known also as “blood tofu”), herbs, and other seasonings. It sometimes also contains pig intestines, liver and heart.

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Steamed Vermicelli Roll
肠粉 (cháng fěn)

A thin roll made from a wide strip of rice noodles, filled with shrimp, pork, beef, or vegetables. It is served with sweet soy sauce.

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「 Shaanxi (Xi'an) 」

 

Glutinous Rice & Date Cake
糯米红枣蒸糕 (zhēng gāo)

Most vendors only prepare one batch overnight of this glutinous rice and date-layered cake. This cake is very sweet, but not sugary.

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Chinese Hamburger
肉夹馍 (ròu jiā mó)

The base of this delicacy is a flat bun that has been pan-fried. Fillings are chopped pork, beef, lamb or chicken that has been stewed for over 6 hours with a variety of spices.

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「 Tibet (Xizang) 」

 

Tibetan Tsamba Porridge 
糌粑粥 (zānbāzhōu)

Tsamba is a staple food in Tibet. It is made from mixing roasted barley flour with butter, Tibetan dried cheese, sugar and Tibetan tea.  

Tsamba is used to make porridge, as well as delicious cake.

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「 Beijing 」

 

Fermented Mung-Bean Milk
豆汁儿 (dòu zhī’er)

This is actually the leftover liquid from the production of mung bean noodles.

Its taste is mainly sour, greyish-green colour, and has an egg-like smell.Most people drink this with another Beijing speciality: fried dough rings called jiāoquān’er  焦圈儿 .

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「 Guangxi 」

 

Luosifen
螺蛳粉 (luó si fěn)

A soup noodle dish made with the stock from river snails and pork bones.

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「 Qinghai 」

 

Yak Yoghurt
犁牛酸奶 (líniú suānnǎi)

This yoghurt is a well received by people all over Qinghai due to its creamy, smooth texture and slightly sour taste. It has a very unique yellow sheen that forms on the top.

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「 He'nan 」

 

Millet Porridge
小米稀饭 (xiǎomǐ xīfàn)

This is a variation of rice congee, but instead it uses grain. It is not as thick as rice congee, but instead, more watery. It is usually eaten with mantou 馒头, peanuts and eggs.

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「 Hainan 」

 

Hainan Breakfast Noodles
海南粉 (hǎi nán fěn)

The most common topping for these noodles includes tahini and roasted peanuts, or a thick meat gravy with thin strips of bamboo.

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「 Liaoning 」

 

Dough Drop Soup
疙瘩汤 (gēda tāng)

This breakfast soup contains flour noodles, egg, tomato, other vegetables and shrimp.

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「 Jiangsu 」

 

Sha soup
饣它汤 (shí tā tāng)

This is similar to a chicken broth, with other ingredients such as peppers, mung beans and egg. It has a fresh and spicy flavor.

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「 Hunan 」

 

Rice-flour Noodles
米粉 (mǐ fěn)

VERY spicy soup noodles with vegetables and meat toppings.

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「 Neimongol / Inner Mongolia 」

 

「 果条 (guǒ tiáo) 」

Inner Mongolian Traditional Breakfast includes: fruit, sugar, urum, milk tofu, white cream, fried rice and a teapot.

白糖 (báitáng)、奶皮子 (nǎipí zi)、奶豆腐  (nǎi dòufu)、乌日莫(白奶油)(wū rì mò (bái nǎiyóu))、炒米(chǎomǐ)、茶锅 (chá guō)

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「 Chongqing 」

 

Chongqing Xiaomian
重庆小面 (xiǎomiàn)

Hot and spicy noodles seasoned with vinegar, sugar, red oil, ginger and vegetables, sometimes topped with braised beef.

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「 Shanxi 」

 

Hula soup
胡辣汤 (húlà tāng)

This soup is made from the broth of beef. As its Chinese name implies, this soup is very hot and spicy, due to it containing “pepper” and “chili”.

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「 Yunnan 」

 

Potato & Canola Flower Baba土豆油菜花粑粑 (Tǔ dòu yóu cài huā bābā)

This is a very specialized dish from Yunan. It is a mixture of Potato and Canola Flower, pan-fried into a crispy, thin snack.

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「 Fujian 」

 

Ding Bian Hu
鼎边糊 (dǐngbiānhu)

Made from a rice starch solution cooked in a seafood-flavoured broth, and then garnished with seafood.

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「 Ningxia 」

 

Mutton Soup
羊杂碎汤 (yáng zá suì tāng)

Sheep is a common choice in Ningxia, due to the high quality of the meat as Ningxia’s natural conditions are more favorable.

A ginger-based seasoning powder normally accompanies this soup.

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「 Tianjing 」

 

Chinese Savoury Crepe
煎饼果子
(jiān bing guǒ zi)

This popular breakfast actually originated from Tianjin. It is a savoury crisp-fried crêpe, made from a wheat batter and grain flour, eggs and sauces. Fillings include a crispy fried cracker, coriander, peppery scallions, chilli sauce or hoisin sauce. It is basically a Chinese breakfast burrito.

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「 Zhejiang 」

 

Pan Fried Dumplings
生煎包 (sheng jiān bāo)

Also very popular in Shanghai, this dumpling is similar to Xiaolongbao, except it is fried and crispy at the bottom. It contains meat and soup.

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「 Gansu 」

 

Lanzhou Beef Noodles
兰州牛肉面 
(lán zhōu niú ròu miàn)

Hugely popular across the whole of China, this noodle soup consists of a flavourful hot & spicy broth, shaved beef, lots of seasoning, including radish slices, deep red chilli oil and handmade noodles.

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「 Xinjiang 」

 

Roast Flatbread
烤馕 (kǎo náng)

This Muslim-influenced is made from milk, sesame, flour and egg. It is cooked in a circular kiln.

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Samsa
烤包子 (kǎo bāo zi)

Also know as “hot pockets”, this popular breakfast food is very similar to snacks found in Central Asia, such as the samosa in India.
These spiced lamb and onion parcels are cooked in a tall tonur oven, a very hot oven which forms heat blisters and crisps the outside, giving it a unique look.

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「 Jiangxi 」

 

Wa Guan Soup
瓦罐汤 (wǎ guàn tāng)

The base of this soup is always a pork broth with some pieces of pork rib or minced pork, however varieties include lotus root, seaweed, pear and egg.

This delicacy is very special and delicious because it has been simmering in a clay pot for many hours. 

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「 Heilongjiang 」

 

Shaobing
烧饼 (shāo bǐng)

This breakfast snack is a type of baked, layered flatbread. It comes in a lot of varieties and can be either savoury or sweet. Common fillings include red bean paste, black sesame paste, braised beef or stir-fried mung beans.

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「 Jilin 」

 

Tofu Rolls with Spring Onions
豆皮卷大葱 
(dòu pí juǎn dà cōng)

This delicacy is very fresh and healthy. Cucumber, parsley and spring onions are wrapped in a tofu roll.

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「 Hubei 」

 

Reganmian or Hot dry noodles
热干面 (rè gān miàn)

Cooked differently to cold noodles or noodles in soup, these noodles are chewy and golden. These noodles contain a mixture of sauces and dried vegetables, with each stall creating their own individual signature tastes.

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「 Anhui 」

 

Fried Dumplings
锅贴 (guō tiē)

Crispy fried dumplings with a delicious filling of meat and vegetables

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「 Hebei 」

 

Deep-fried dough sticks
油条 (yóu tiáo)

This popular breakfast snack consists of a long golden-brown deep-fried strip of dough.

Not just in Hebei, this breakfast snack is popular throughout the whole of China. It is usually eaten as an addition to rice congee or soymilk. 

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「 Guizhou 」

 

Sticky Rice
糯米饭 (nuò mǐ fàn)

Glutinous sticky rice. Every year, the Miao Ethnic group people even hold a traditional sticky rice festival in Congjiang County.

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It is safe to say that I do not think I will ever be brave enough to try some of these dishes. Like the ‘Pork Blood Soup’ 猪血汤, or the ridiculously spicy looking ‘Rice-flour Noodles’ 米粉 from Hunan Province…

When I wake up in the morning, the last thing I want is a full plate of noodles.

But the Chinese do have a famous saying: “早饭吃得饱、午饭吃得好、晚饭吃得少”, “eat well at breakfast, eat enough at lunch, eat a little at dinner”.

Maybe I have been eating wrong my whole entire life. But for now, I think I will stick to my Alpen, cold milk and sliced apple.

But perhaps the longer I will be in China, the more I will adapt to the Chinese way of eating. And who knows, in one months time, I will be joining that long queue around the corner for some stinky tofu.