Residents in Tianjin prefer their breakfast fast and convenient.
煎饼果子 Tianjin-style flatbread, made with mung bean flour and eggs. Takes 2 minutes to prepare.
In Chongqing, people start their morning with something hot and spicy.
重庆小面 Chongqing small noodles, made with peppers, chilli oil, Sichuan peppercorn, soy sauce, and 8 other condiments.
牛肉面 noodles with braised beef
Wuhan residents prefer a more salty, savoury flavour.
面窝 Wuhan-style fried doughnut
三鲜豆皮 seafood tofu skin
热干面 hot dry noodles
Retirees in Guangzhou have a more leisurely approach to breakfast. They spend over an hour at breakfast.
艇仔粥 “boat” porridge
肠粉 rice noodle roll
干蒸烧卖 siu mai, or steamed pork dumplings
榴莲酥 crispy durian cake
招牌虾饺 steamed shrimp dumplings
But the full spread of dim sum and morning tea are for retirees and people who have the luxury of time. For the vast majority of the working population, they have to make do with bread and milk, or simple food that’s both fast and cheap.
If you get hungry easily before lunch, you can head over to Sichuan for some street snacks.
炒洋芋 stir-fried potato slices
天蚕土豆 deep-fried potato wedges
烤洋芋 baked potato
炸薯块 deep-fried potatoes
Never underestimate the potential of a simple potato as an ingredient.
For about a month, the chefs working in the canteen at my local middle school fed us potatoes, nothing but potatoes (other than rice, that is). Breakfast would be stir-fried potato slices. Lunch would be stir-fried potato slices with pork slices and pepper, or if we were lucky, pork ribs stewed with potatoes. Dinner would be shredded potato salad with vinegar and chilli or beef stew with potatoes. Breakfast tomorrow? Leftover potatoes cut into slices and stir-fried. It’s like being caught in an infinity loop.
The crazy thing was, I loved it. And so did almost everybody else.
Three minutes before noon, there would be a noticeable drop in noise volume in the entire teaching building, as students in each classroom stopped their chitchatting and got ready for the 200-metre dash to the school canteen.
One minute before noon, almost everybody would be drooling like Pavlov’s dogs.
Ten seconds before the bell rang, there would be a chorus of countdown coordinated by thousands of students in over fifty classrooms, drowning out the teachers’ desperate attempt to cram one more important exam tip into our brain, which by that time, was filled with nothing but the salty and savoury aroma of fried potatoes drifting down from the canteen into the open classroom windows.
坨坨肉 braised pork is a special dish of the Yi people, prepared for the Torch Festival.
In Anhui, while students are shooting spit balls at each other behind the teacher’s back, their parents are busy preparing a nutritious lunch.
剁椒蒸鱼头 steamed fish head with pickled peppers
蒿子粑粑 crown daisy rice cake
豆腐干子烧肉 braised pork with dried tofu
In parts of China, the trend of vegetarianism is catching on.
上汤双色铁棍山药 Chinese yam
时蔬彩虹蛋糕 rainbow cake made from seasonal vegetables
秋葵炒竹荪 bamboo fungus fried with ladies’ fingers
In Hong Kong, they’ve created a type of mooncake that does not require baking.
冰皮月饼 snow skin mooncake
Back in Sichuan, more street snacks help you to pass the time before dinner is served.
生煎包 fried pork bun
锅盔 fried pancake
米粑 rice cake
豌杂面 noodles with peas and meat sauce
古蔺麻辣鸡 spicy chicken with Sichuan peppercorn
Meanwhile in Yunnan,
酸木瓜煮鱼 stewed fish with pickled papaya
爆炒见手青 stir-fried mushrooms
As for dinner,
五味鸭 five-flavoured duck
清蒸鲈鱼 steamed red-fin perch
西洋菜猪骨汤 pork rib soup with watercress
蒸腊鱼 steamed cured fish
咸鸭蛋 salted duck egg
After a million-calorie meal, time to hit the gym.