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Breakfast of Champions – Breakfasts Around the World

….And Why It’s Often Okay to Go Off-Menu When Travelling

Many years ago we were excitedly choosing all sorts of delicacies at the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Yerevan, Armenia, when another guest glanced at our plates, shrivelled their noses in a very patronising manner and exclaimed, “Ugh! Salad? For breakfast?”

It’s widely considered to be most important meal of the day but so many people seem to be set in their ways when it comes to eating a hearty breakfast. So much that hotels all over the world seem to offer pretty much the same fare. Western visitors are often offered fried food such as bacon, sausage and eggs with bread-based accompaniments and Eastern visitors are usually offered rice or noodle dishes. All these dishes are generally familiar to the tourist and often don’t reflect the traditional breakfasts of the country they are visiting. 

Maybe it’s because people don’t feel so adventurous first thing in the morning, and that’s fair enough, but they may be missing out. Thing is, we’re British and can have bacon and eggs any time we like. (Although, to be honest, we haven’t cooked a fry-up for years as it’s quite a lot of effort.) We’d much rather eat a typical breakfast using local ingredients from the country that we are visiting.

It’s quite common for hotels to ask their guests to pre-order breakfast. It makes sense, they know what they need to order in beforehand and this can help minimise food waste. There is usually a form with tick boxes and you can choose from a variety of typical breakfast offerings. But if you do want to eat like a local, we’ve learned that many hotel restaurants are happy to cook you a regional breakfast. We’ve discovered that very often it’s absolutely okay to go off menu.

It all started in Uganda when we breakfasted at a lodge with a local guide. We were eating standard fare but our curiosity was piqued when something entirely different was brought out for him. On asking, we learned that it was a rolex – a chapati with a layer of omelette on top, then rolled into a spiral cylinder, perfect for munching on. So the next day we asked the lodge staff if it would be possible for us to have a rolex for brekkie and they were happy to oblige. It’s great – tasty and filling – a good start to the day.

In Nepal we were given a standard pre-order form to complete (eggs, bacon, sausage, toast…) to pre-order breakfast for the following morning. We politely asked whether it was possible to have a local breakfast instead. We didn’t specify any dish – just asked for local food. They were delighted. The following morning we were served a marsala omelette accompanied by a joyous curry and roti with home-made yoghurt. It was delicious.

Gallo pinto is a typical breakfast in Costa Rica. It’s so popular it is often eaten for lunch and dinner as well. Which is just as well because it tastes great and is also really healthy. It comprises rice and beans and is usually accompanied by a fried egg at breakfast. Other accompaniments to start the morning include sausage, fried potatoes and some salad.

A dosa for breakfast in South India is an absolute joy. This is a pancake traditionally made from rice and dal (lentils) which are ground to form a batter and then fermented. The batter is cooked on a hot plate to form a large pancake and served with chutney – coriander, coconut and tomato are particularly popular.

In Vietnam breakfast usually took a buffet form but often there were chefs on-hand to cook some food to order. We were always offered Pho – a tangle of noodles, freshly cooked and served in a yummy broth, topped with meat and vegetables. You pick up a side plate and add herbs, chilli, limes and other delicious items so that you can create your own personalised taste sensation. The liquid of the broth also ensured that we were thoroughly hydrated for the day ahead.

In Japan, breakfast often comprises grilled fish, vegetables and pickles, maybe with tofu, dumpling and an omelette.

These are accompanied with a bowl of rice, into which you could crack a raw egg mixed with shoyu (soy sauce) – the egg sort of cooks in the heat of the rice – or that famous smelly fermented soybean concoction, natto, maybe with some sliced negi (similar to spring onion). Just grab a slice of nori (dried seaweed), place it over the rice, then using a pincer movement with your chopsticks grab a portion of rice with the nori. Scrumptious. (It’s worth noting that if you are at a breakfast buffet in Japan the eggs on offer may well be raw – be careful when cracking them.)

And, of course, whenever we are staying away from home in the UK, we’ll always have an honest-to-goodness fry-up. Sausage, bacon, egg (usually fried, poached or scrambled), black pudding, mushroom, tomato, beans and sometime a hash brown are the usual components.

We recently discovered that the best possible place for a full English breakfast that we’ve ever eaten is actually in our home town. While many top breakfast establishments boast locally sourced food (which is, of course, delicious), The Gourmet Food Kitchen in Fargo Village, Coventry go one step further and actually cure their own bacon and make their own sausages and black pudding. And that’s just the start: The hash brown (never the most fabulous component of breakfasts) is a home-made bubble and squeak, a glorious blend of fried potato and cabbage. The beans have never seen a tin – they are home-made baked beans in a rich tomato sauce. Chef Tony even makes his own rich, tangy and utterly delicious brown sauce to accompany the feast.


14 Comments

  1. Rolex for brekkers sounds delicious. You’ve had yourselves some lovely international choices of the most important meal of the day there.

    We usually try to avoid our hotel breakfasts and go elsewhere, but asking your hotel to cook something local is a great alternative and better value. Might do that in the future.

    • Thank you. Yes, the rolex was delicious. We always feel that food is such an important part of travelling it’s good to eat local whenever possible.

    • Thank you! The question just kinda popped out when we were presented with the standard form. We figured that the worst that would happen would be that they would say that it wasn’t possible (which would have been absolutely fine), but their reaction was really positive. And the brekkie was delicious!

    • Pho always makes for a brilliant breakfast as it’s so tasty and filling – we had it almost every day in Vietnam. And the local Nepalese brekkie was delish!

  2. I just had to read this post as breakfast is my favourite meal of the day (and I’m not talking cornflakes, muesli or all bran). Including the great British, or Irish, Scottish, Welsh, etc etc – everyone seems to have their own version!. Brilliant idea to go for local dishes – I’d be happy with any of them except raw eggs 🙂 Salad is fine too. I remember getting salad on the side of my plate in New York when I ordered a fry-up, whereas in Canada it would be a little side of fruit – including strawberries. I’ve served a salad garnish with my fry-ups ever since. People think it’s odd but we love it!

    • Thank you. One of the best things about travelling is trying local food and brekkie is no exception. The raw egg turned out to be less challenging than we thought it would be – when it’s mixed with the hot rice it cooks a bit before you eat it – honest! Love the idea of some salad or fruit with a fry-up, we’ll definitely try that.

  3. It is definitely a “yes” from me…all these options look delicious. I remember loving Pho in Vietnam. I always love trying the local breakfast, it is fascinating what people eat for breakfast around the world.
    This post has made me hungry…porridge for breakfast today.

    • Thank you! Yes, we loved the Pho as well. So delicious and it really sets you up for the day. Hope you had a good brekkie this morning!

  4. I like the sound of your local in Coventry. Can’t beat homemade. I’d love to try some of these but oddly the one I couldn’t try is Japan. Can’t have fish for breakfast. The Marsala omelette and Rolex sound brill.

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