5 Healthy Chinese Breakfast Ideas
Explore and learn about popular Asian foods for breakfast!
Not a breakfast person? A healthy and nutritious meal in the morning is a great way to start the day by refueling your body. It is a proven fact that people who eat breakfast regularly acquire more nutrients which in turn impacts their performance at work.
Children who eat breakfast perform better at school. Despite busy schedules, some families choose breakfast as their meal of choice to talk and connect with each other. Beyond the many benefits on the health and nutrition aspects of having breakfast, I will focus here on building a healthy meal with popular Chinese breakfast foods. Let’s look at the basic components of a healthy breakfast first.
What is a Balanced Breakfast?
A balanced breakfast should include carbohydrate, protein, fibre, and a small amount of good fats. Carbohydrates provide energy that our bodies need to start the day. Protein, fibre and fats provide the satiety needed for the human body and provide longer lasting energy throughout the day.
As outlined in our blog post, there are three main categories in a well-balanced meal. Choose foods from each of the following categories:
- Grain/Starch: rice, glutinous rice, mixed grains, millets, rice porridge/congee, wonton or dumplings, whole wheat noodles/bread, steamed buns, pancakes.
- Fruit or vegetables: cooked or raw vegetables, fresh/canned/frozen vegetables, fresh or frozen fruits.
- Protein: meat (beef, pork, or lamb), fish, seafood, tofu, nuts and seeds, soybeans.
With these categories in mind listed above, how do we power up the following five popular Chinese breakfasts?
Steamed buns are popular breakfast choices. They are often made with refined enriched wheat flour and are salty or sweet. Instead of making plain buns with white flour, you can use whole wheat flour and add nuts and seeds such as ground walnuts, hemp seeds or sesame seeds to increase the fibre and protein content. You can also stuff the plain buns with lean meat and vegetables for a more balanced meal to start the day.
Rice, egg, or wheat noodles
A bowl of steaming hot rice vermicelli or wheat noodles is a great way to start the day. The higher-fibre choices are brown rice vermicelli or whole wheat noodles. Instead of having just plain noodles, you can add a fried or boiled egg, thin slices of meat, tofu, seafood, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and leafy green vegetables.
Dumplings are a favourite for many! The filling is comprised of a wrapper made with enriched wheat flour. They are often boiled in a broth, steamed, or pan-fried. Sometimes, they are served together with noodles. Popular fillings include ground pork, shrimp, fish, mushrooms, or vegetables. Instead of having just dumplings with meat fillings for breakfast, you can cook them up in a broth with vegetables, or pair them with a plate of leafy greens.
Rice porridge or congee
Plain rice porridge or congee which is white rice cooked in plenty of water for a long period of time is also a commonly eaten Chinese breakfast. Often, it’s paired with a plate of fried noodles or deep-fried dough sticks. As they are primarily carbohydrates, a simple way to add more protein is by adding some toppings such as meat, fermented tofu, eggs, meat, bean curds, or beans. You can also enjoy congee with a glass of soymilk and side vegetables.
For those of you who haven’t had dim sum before, it is a Chinese meal that features many small plates or steamed baskets of bite-sized foods. Popular choices include shrimp or pork dumplings, vegetarian dumplings, buns, and steamed rice-noodle rolls. A more balanced combination would be to include a few vegetarian dishes as well as sides of boiled Chinese broccoli or cabbage. This will up the nutrients and add valuable fibre to your meal.
Need recipe ideas?
Fish Congee with Shiitake Mushroom Recipe
- 1/2 cup brown rice (or white rice, if preferred)
- 150 g white fish fillet
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 6 dried (or fresh) shiitake mushrooms
- 3 tbsp Chinese preserved mustard greens
- 1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
- 1 spring onion, diced
- 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
- salt to taste
- Presoak the dried shiitake mushrooms in one cup of water until they are rehydrated (approx. 30 mins)
- Remove the mushrooms and reserve the liquid that was used to rehydrate them.
- Thin slice the fish fillet at an angle with a very sharp knife to about 1/4-inch thickness pieces. Marinate with salt, pepper, and ginger for 10 mins.
- In a large pot, bring to a boil the chicken or vegetable stock with the reserved
- Once at a boil, add brown rice and pinch of salt and reduce the heat to
- Place a lid on the simmering rice and allow them to cook for approx. 45 mins.
- Add the sliced fishinto the pot and boil for another 5-10mins. Season with salt and garnish with spring onion
- While the congee is cooking, thin slice the shiitakes mushrooms. Sauté them in vegetable oil until they are slightly caramelized and soft, then add the sweet soy sauce and Chinese preserved mustard greens.
- Serve fish congee in bowls with the shiitake mushrooms and Chinese preserved mustard greens.
Nutrients per meal serving
Analysis made using chicken broth.
28 g Carbohydrate
14.6 g Protein
1.5 g Fiber
With a tiny bit of meal planning, it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time and effort to prepare breakfast with these popular Chinese foods. When you start the day healthy, it sets you up to continue on the healthy path for the rest of the day. Remember health is wealth, and if you choose healthy foods, your body will thank you for it. Which Chinese breakfast would you try next? Comment below!
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When you meet Amy Yiu you can’t help to be drawn to her infectious enthusiasm, optimism and sincere care for her clients. She loves teaching and mentoring and is known for her kind, reassuring and lighthearted nature. Her clients enjoy the balance of her detail oriented understanding of nutrition wrapped with the ability to offer simplified and practical ideas that can work for any family situation. Since 2008 Amy has worked as a private practice Dietitian as a nutrition counsellor, author, media expert and workshop facilitator. Amy has extensive experience in education for weight concerns, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bone health, seniors health and family meal planning. She offers nutrition support in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.