You may want to rethink your eggs and toast after catching a glimpse of how other countries make their first meal.
When it comes to breakfast, we might be partial to avocado toast or a sprinkle-covered, glazed doughnut, but the international breakfast scene is giving our traditional morning meals some serious competition. For Americans, hot soups and cold cuts may seem like a strange way to start the day at first, but there’s no better way to get a taste for a country than to chow down as the locals do. Here’s how to start the day off right in 24 different countries.
Thanks to the country’s multi-ethnic influences, Malaysia boasts a range of breakfast options that can have Indian, Chinese, or Western roots, but the best way to fuel up for the day is to sit down to a plate of nasi lemak, the national dish. Traditionally served or wrapped in a banana leaf (making it a perfectly portable meal), nasi lemak consists of a mound of rich, sweet coconut rice garnished with some combination of anchovies, cucumbers, roasted peanuts, hard-boiled eggs, and a spicy Malaysian hot sauce.
The Egyptian breakfast of ful medames has withstood the test of time. Said to date back to Ancient Egypt, the earthy dish is made from fava beans stewed overnight and spiced with cumin, parsley, onion, lemon, and chili pepper. It’s served warm or cold and is often garnished with hard-boiled eggs and served with a grainy slab of Egyptian pita.
3. Costa Rica
The best way to get in the pura vida spirit in Costa Rica is to start the day with a big plate of gallo pinto. The stir-fried rice and bean dish is cooked with red pepper, cilantro, onion, and a few dashes of the country’s signature sauce, Salsa Lizano. Served next to a side of eggs, avocado, plantains, or cheese, the rounded mound of gallo pinto looks adorably similar to the spotted chicken for which it is named.
It’s no secret that we think that kahvalti, the traditional Turkish breakfast, is Turkey’s best reason to get out of bed. The incredible spread includes breads, soft, creamy cheeses, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, spicy Turkish sausage, and a range of jams, marmalades, and honeys. Don’t miss the menemen, delicious skillet-cooked eggs, and, of course, the country’s famous tea and coffee.
The best breakfast in Kenya wouldn’t be complete without a cup of strong, sweet-smelling chai. Skip the ubiquitous full English breakfast and pair that chai instead with uji, a thick porridge made from sorghum or millet and traditionally served in a calabash, or head to a street vendor for some mandazi—puffy, golden East African doughnuts, fried up while you wait.
Hearty enough to fortify you through a morning of sightseeing but not so heavy that it’ll slow you down, pho, a rice noodle and meat soup, is the perfect Vietnamese breakfast. True, you can find the dish served all day, since it is a popular lunch and dinner dish for tourists, but the best pho is available in the morning at street vendors who boil just enough to bone broth overnight to satisfy customers through the morning. If soup isn’t your thing, other savory Vietnamese breakfasts to try include congee, a rice porridge, and op-la, skillet-fried eggs and pork served with slices of fluffy Vietnamese baguettes.
Yes, Australians like their Vegemite and bread, but it’s no longer the pride and joy of the breakfast table. These days, coffee is what makes an Australian breakfast truly scrumptious. The country takes a lot of pride in its coffee culture, and breakfast isn’t complete without a flat white (the Aussie version of a latte) or a long black (a richer, stronger Americano). You’ll also find plenty of fresh fruit, smoothies, healthy muesli, and as a weekend treat, maybe a mind-blowing English breakfast.
True breakfast in China may be a simple affair, but the country mastered brunch long before any other country even dreamed of stretching breakfast into lunch. Dim sum, a staple in Chinatowns the world over, is traditionally served in the late morning and includes a variety of steamed buns, dumplings, rice noodle rolls, congees, noodle soups, sticky coated chicken, and fried veggies. Whether you go for the full restaurant dim sum experience or a quieter meal, expect to start your day in China with a spread of many little tastes that pack a big punch.
9. United Kingdom
There is no morning meal as famous or intimidating as the full English breakfast. Real stick-to-your-ribs fare, a classic English breakfast includes eggs, sausage, thick-cut bacon, beans, mushrooms, toast, a cooked tomato, and perhaps blood sausage. Oh, and, of course, a cup (or pot) of tea. We guarantee it’ll keep you satisfied until lunch!
10-12. France, Spain, and Italy
The French (as well as the Spanish and Italians, for that matter) disagree with the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A morning coffee is indispensable, but additional sustenance isn’t often required. When in Paris (or Rome, or Madrid), do as the locals do and start off light—a croissant with coffee at a Parisian café, a biscotti with cappuccino in Italy, or simple toast with tomato and olive oil with café con leche in Spain. You’ll want to save room for the mouth-watering, rich dishes awaiting you at lunch and dinner.
The ideal Swiss breakfast features muesli with milk or yogurt, fresh fruit, and tea or coffee. While the classic breakfast cereal is popular the world over, it actually originated in Switzerland around 1900. The healthy, fresh, and light dish is often made of raw rolled oats that are sometimes soaked in fruit juice or water overnight, and then mixed with other grains, fresh and dried fruits, seeds, and nuts.
Venezuelan arepas are both the national dish and the country’s most popular breakfast food. As versatile as bread is in other countries, arepas accompany most meals. For breakfast, the flat corn cakes are either fried or baked and then split open like pita and filled with cooked cheese and stewed chicken or pork.
A full traditional Japanese breakfast is a reason in and of itself to visit the country and features a balance of many little dishes, including miso soup, steamed white rice, pickled vegetables, fish or tofu, sticky fermented soybeans, and dried seaweed, all accompanied by green tea.
Breakfast in Poland, or śniadanie, features an open-faced sandwich. Piled on top of breads and rolls of all shapes and sizes—from traditional rye bread to soft, warm, and crispy rolls—the range of sandwich fixings seems endless: cold cuts, meat spreads, kielbasa sausage, soft and hard cheeses, tomatoes, and eggs scrambled with sausage or soft boiled. But despite the frenzy of possibilities, breakfast is often seen as an opportunity to slow down. After all, building the perfect sandwich one level after another takes time.
The breakfast spread in Greece may include boiled eggs, cold cuts, pastries, and bread with feta cheese, tomatoes, and olive oil, but it’s the yogurt that’ll keep you coming back for more. Thick, rich, and creamy Greek yogurt is served with nuts and honey, which balance the tang of the yogurt and make for the perfect start to the day.
Breakfast, or nāshtā, in Pakistan varies across the country, but you’ll usually find eggs and different breads like rotis or parathas (pan-fried unleavened flatbread), as well as vegetable curries and an array of chutneys and spicy sauces. On weekends and special occasions, keep an eye out for halwa puri, or unleavened fried bread served with a sweet semolina dish and a chickpea and potato curry. You’ll know where to find the best halwa puri by the line outside.
Because dinner in Argentina is eaten so late, breakfast is a rather simple affair of café con leche, orange juice, and toast or croissant-like medialunas. If you’re looking to switch things up, you can swap your café con leche for mate—a locally popular, highly caffeinated tea—or your medialunas for other, sweeter Argentinian pastries known as facturas. Either way, during the morning in Argentina, less is more.
Myanmar’s iconic breakfast dish, mohinga, is also the country’s national dish. The comforting soup is made with a fish broth base and loaded with rice noodles, lemongrass, ginger, onions and chickpea flour and is sometimes topped with fried fritters, split chickpeas, or boiled eggs. While you may fall in love with your daily dose of fish soup, other breakfast options include sticky fried rice topped with boiled yellow beans and noodle salads—and you’ll always be able to find a cup of green tea.
21-23. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway
The Nordic countries are experts in the art of the open-faced breakfast sandwich. Slathered with a range of spreads, from soft cheeses to mayonnaises to jams, the breads are then loaded up with cured fish, cold cuts, cheeses, vegetables, and/or hard-boiled eggs. In Sweden expect to see filmjölk, a soured dairy product, on the breakfast table, as well as kaviar (caviar) spread, and plenty of fresh berries, like cloudberries or lingonberries. In Denmark , the sandwich foundation might be rye bread, and the Norwegian sandwich on lefse flat bread often features Gjetost cheese.
Breakfast is often the largest meal of the day in the Philippines and usually includes fruit, pan de sal (enriched yeasted rolls), and a hearty rice dish such as fried rice served with little sausages called longganisa, or some other combination of rice and meat such as tapsilog, or dried meat and a fried egg served with rice.