Breakfast Favorites: A Grand Tour
Here's a look at what other countries are doing for breakfast.
SPAIN Breakfast in Spain is mostly a coffee-and-bread affair, but the country lays claim to one decadent morning option: churros and chocolate. Ridged ,curved batons of deep-fried, sugardusted cruller dough, churros—whose invention has been attributed, variously, to Moors, Sephardic Jews, and hepherds in the Spanish highlands—are dunked in cups of dark, thick hot chocolate.
USA Nearly 40 percent of Americans have consumed cold, leftover pizza for breakfast, according to a 2005 poll conducted by ABC News.
JAPAN It wouldn’t be breakfast in Japan without** natto**, the pungent bean condiment that’s often served with rice and grated daikon or chopped scallion, raw quail eggs, and hot mustard or soy sauce, among other foods. Natto is traditionally made by storing soybeans in straw bags; the beans ferment and develop a sticky coating with an intense flavor.
WORLDWIDE Just as a French rooster sounds unlike an American one, the onomatopoeic Rice Krispies mascots Snap! Crackle! Pop! have different names in other countries. In Sweden, they’re Piff! Paff! Puff!; in Finland, Poks! Riks! Raks!; in Germany, Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!; and in South Africa, Knap! Knaetter! Knak!
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC The cornerstone of Dominican breakfasts is mangu, a creamy mash of boiled plantains, milk, and butter, usually served with eggs and sausage.
AUSTRALIA Weet-Bix may look like health food, but Australian children still hanker for these flaky whole wheat biscuits, which are softened in milk and eaten as breakfast cereal. A legacy of the same Seventh-day Adventist health food movement that produced many of America’s best-known cereals, Weet-Bix are also popular in New Zealand and South Africa. The English version is called Weetabix.
NORWAY Smørbrød are small open-face sandwiches composed of various ingredients and usually eaten for lunch. For breakfast, Norwegians eat a simplified smørbrød, often topped with nothing more than a piece of herring.
JAMAICA Ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s favorite breakfast and its national dish, is a meal of contrasts: salty, chewy rehydrated salt cod is sauteed with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and ackee, a bright yellow fruit from a West African evergreen tree whose sweet flesh looks and tastes remarkably like scrambled eggs.
ENGLAND Great Britain’s beloved Marmite—a sticky dark brown yeast extract with a meaty taste that people either love or hate—was a natural by-product of the beer brewing process before it formally became a breakfast condiment, in 1902. Like its Australian cousin Vegemite, it is often spread over toast, slathered on cheese biscuits, or served with eggs.
VENEZUELA The small, round cornmeal pancakes called arepas are so popular that many Venezuelan kitchens have an appliance that exists solely for cooking them; called an arepera, it’s a distant relative of the waffle iron, with circular molds that turn out perfectly shaped discs. In their traditional breakfast incarnation, the cakes are often stuffed with cream cheese or butter and honey.
ITALY Gianduja, a paste-like confection of chocolate and hazelnuts native to Italy’s Piedmont region, was the inspiration for the breakfast spread Nutella, which was introduced to the world in the 1940s by the Italian pastry maker Pietro Ferrero. Loved by children (and quite a few grown-ups) as a topping for toast, Nutella is now sold in more than 75 countries and is more popular than peanut butter.
VIETNAM A steaming bowl of the aromatic noodle soup known as pho starts the day for much of Vietnam; indeed, it could be called the country’s national dish. Even so, pho’s origins are international: the noodles are courtesy of the Chinese, and the rich beef stock is French influenced.
SOMALIA A Somali breakfast wouldn’t be complete without laxoox, a sourdough flatbread, similar to Ethiopian injera, that’s traditionally eaten with honey, butter, or beans.
EGYPT Ful medames, the breakfast specialty consisting of fava beans simmered with garlic, is Egypt’s national dish. Many claim that it’s as old as the pyramids, based on the evidence of favas found in pharaonic-era tombs.
UGANDA This is the only country in the world where cash-strapped students queue up to buy rolexes: not the wristwatches but the breakfast specialty that happens to bear the same name. A rolex (the word is derived from the phrase rolled eggs) is an omelette loaded with tomatoes, cabbage, beans, and onions rolled up in a fresh chapatti, a tortilla-like flatbread.
USA The flaky Southern-style quick breads known as biscuits serve as a conduit for regional flavors. In Appalachia, sweet and heady sorghum syrup is ladled over hot biscuits. In the deep South, flour-thickened white sausage gravy is the favored accompaniment. In the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, there’s even chocolate gravy for pouring over biscuits. And almost anywhere below the Mason-Dixon Line, fruit preserves are a biscuit’s best friend.
RUSSIA Kasha, a porridge made from grains such as buckwheat, oats, and wheat, is a key player in the traditional Russian breakfast. Mothers often start their babies on jarred kasha—flavored with sweet ingredients like apples, apricots, pumpkin, and prunes—ensuring lifelong loyalty.
GHANA **The chile sauce known as **shitto distinguishes breakfast in this West African country; it’s usually served with local specialties like kenkey, a fermented corn mash, and fried fish. There are two versions of shitto, equally popular at morning meals: one is made with fresh chiles, tomatoes, and onions; the other is a more robust variety, also known as black pepper sauce, which is made with preserved fish.
IRAQ Bread is king at Iraqi breakfasts, where one finds gaymar wa dibis, a dish of fresh cheese and date syrup on khubz, a round flatbread that’s baked on the inner wall of a traditional tannour oven. Khubz, like the crusty baguette look-alike known as sammoun, is also eaten with fried or hardboiled eggs.
USA America’s fixation on quick-prep (and no-prep) breakfast foods—exemplified by such pantry standbys as Bisquick, Jiffy Pancake Mix, Carnation Instant Breakfast, and Quaker Instant Oatmeal—may have reached its apotheosis in 2000 with General Mills’s Cereal and Milk Bars, morning repast for those who don’t even have time to pour themselves a bowl.