We all have to start the day somehow, and chugging a pot of black coffee is a fairly recent invention thanks to the gig economy. Most of the time, people around the world actually sit down to eat the most important meal of the day. Here’s how the rest of the world eats breakfast.
Haejangguk – Korea
Every culture that consumes alcohol has some kind of folksy cure for the morning after a heavy drinking session, but it looks like Korea has gotten the closest if you’re taking a more scientific approach. Haejangguk is colloquially known as hangover soup and its ingredients are chosen specifically to combat the symptoms of a hangover. The flavors aren’t stereotypical by almost any cultural standard, but when you’ve been driven to hangover soup, you’re probably not caring a whole lot about your breakfast’s flavor profile.
Shakshouka – North Africa
The mark of the best breakfasts, no matter where you are, is how easy it is to make, how full you are after you eat it, and how much you have to spend to put it together. Shakshouka checks all those boxes. It’s a single-pan, tomato-and-egg-based meal you can throw together when you’re still blinking sleep out of your eyes. Anything extra you want to put in it you probably already have in your cabinets.
Youtiao – China
If you were in China and wanted to convince one of your Western friends to give youtiao a try, you’d be best served by telling them you were going for breakfast breadsticks. After that, you can get into the mythologized history of the food. Supposedly, it was invented as a form of rebellion against the Chinese traitor Qin Hui. He and his wife sabotaged and killed Yue Fei, a general of the Song dynasty who was beloved by the people. As revenge, the people wrapped two breadsticks around each other, one each for Qin Hui and his wife, then deep-fried the bread. You were also originally supposed to eat youtiao with malice, as if you were ripping the traitor apart yourself.
Ackee and saltfish – Jamaica
Ackee is Jamaica’s national fruit and ackee and saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish, so when you’re putting this breakfast together in Jamaica, you’re being twice as patriotic. It’s also completely unlike any other breakfast we’ve ever had, mostly because of the unique flavor of ackee. There isn’t another fruit that tastes like ackee, which means there isn’t another breakfast that tastes like ackee and saltfish.
Fūl medames – Egypt
Fūl medames is another breakfast that’s reported to be a reliable hangover cure, though it doesn’t quite have the scientific backing the Korean offering does. There’s also more room to maneuver inside the recipe, with regional twists being added to the dish as it migrated from Egypt to neighboring countries. The one thing that unites the different versions of the dish is that no good fūl puts an ingredient in the spotlight. The point is the way all the different ingredients mix together to create a flavor that’s completely new.
Cinnamon buns – Sweden
Cinnamon buns aren’t so different from how most people start their day, but we’re including this because the Swedish approach is slightly different, by which we mean better. These are thick, rich cinnamon buns and they far outstrip the stale prepackaged American offering (Pillsbury pressurized-tube cinnamon buns are in a league of their own, so we don’t include those here). They’re also known to be topped with either pearl sugar or salt instead of icing. If you get the chance, go for salt. It works far better than you might expect.