Forget about toast, abandon oatmeal and renounce bacon. In Asia, breakfast is all about rice. Just like bread or potatoes in the West, rice comes in myriad forms, including breakfast!
Rice porridge or congee is the most widespread breakfast dish throughout Asia. In Thailand, it’s known as jok, in Vietnam it’s called chao – plain, warm congee with any variety of ingredients and flavors, from pork to eel to chicken or duck. It’s the Eastern equivalent of chicken noodle soup – a comfort food when you’re feeling unwell. In most places you can have some “deep fried devils” on the side – youtiao as they’re called in China (which literally means “oil stick”); strips of fried dough you dip into the congee.
In Vietnam, one highly polarizing breakfast snack is balut – that infamous boiled egg/duck embryo. Bahn mi is probably more suited to a Western palate – French bread with different hams, salad and chili sauce. Then there’s pho – noodle soup so good it’s eaten for breakfast and lunch.
Asa-gohan – literally “morning rice” – in Japan doesn’t feature any food designated as breakfast-only, apart from natto (fermented beans). A set of boiled rice, broiled fish, pickled veg, miso and natto is a typical breakfast. The beans have a unique texture and distinct flavor unlike anything in the West.
In Indonesia, a popular breakfast dish is nasi goreng – rice (traditionally left over from the previous night’s dinner) fried up with chili, vegetables, garlic and shallots, with a fried egg on top and cucumber slices on the side. There are multiple permutations of this dish, which is not restricted to breakfast, and was voted second in CNN’s World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods in 2011 online poll!