Morning habits are hard to break. You may love everything about a new country, but breakfast is often where culture shock first sets in. Staring down at your bowl, half-awake, all you can think is: how can they eat this in the morning?
But breakfast in a foreign land can be one of the most rewarding experiences as well – a slice of regular life, and a taste of something new and delicious. Some of it may even make it into your breakfast routine back home.
Yoghurt and honey, Greece
There’s a reason Greek-style yoghurt is spreading around the world – the thick and rich dairy product manages to feel both indulgent and healthy, and it’s especially good topped with local wildflower honey and walnuts. Wash it down with a tiny strong coffee in winter or a milky-sweet iced frappé when the weather heats up.
Chocolate and churros, Spain
In Spain, it’s a fine line between late night and early morning, and churros con chocolate hits the spot whether you’re on your way into – or out of – bed. The crispy fried fingers of dough, sometimes sprinkled with sugar, are sturdy enough to survive dipping in hot chocolate so thick it’s almost like pudding. Best served by very old waiters in white shirts and bow ties.
The most stylish Beirutis may guzzle cocktails in rooftop bars by night, but come morning, they start with a rustic handheld meal of chewy flatbread topped with za’atar (wild thyme and oregano) and olive oil and baked until bubbly and golden. For a bit more heft, order it nus nus – half-and-half – with melty white cheese on one side.
An American diner breakfast
How would you like your eggs? Waffle or pancakes? Bacon, ham or sausage? Biscuits or toast? White or whole wheat? The standard American breakfast may require a lot of decisions too early in the morning, but you’ll definitely get it your way, and it’s usually available round-the-clock.
Tacos de canasta, Mexico
“Basket tacos” are a staple morning food in central Mexico. They’re filled with mild ingredients like scrambled eggs, potatoes or cinnamon-laced chorizo, then stacked in a basket and covered with a towel, which makes them steamy and soft.
Ful medames, Egypt
The classic Egyptian breakfast of stewed fava beans is ladled out of a steaming copper pot and topped with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of cumin. Other possible toppings include chopped parsley, raw onion, fresh tomato and hot chili. With a round of coarse, whole-grain aish (bread), it’s a rustic meal that will keep you going till well after noon.
This aromatic bowl of noodles may be a dinner dish to the rest of the world, but it’s the typical morning starter in most of Vietnam. Intense beef broth, laced with star anise, plus noodles and piles of fresh herbs – it all goes perfectly with a cup of strong Vietnamese espresso, sweetened with condensed milk.
Sushi at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo
Sushi of course isn’t specifically a breakfast food in Japan, but it’s the thing to eat after a visit to the sprawling wholesale fish market in Tokyo, which gets rolling in the pre-dawn hours. Settle down on a stool next to a worker in rubber hip-waders, and enjoy the freshest fish of your life.
A full Turkish breakfast
Can’t decide between sweet and savoury? The Turks cater to all tastes with a big platter of both options, and it all works together perfectly. The full range can vary, but the basics are apricot jam or honey, salty white cheese, cucumbers, black olives, spicy bastirma (cured beef), chewy bread and of course perfectly brewed tea.
Strangely, they don’t call them danishes in Denmark. The flaky breakfast pastries with cheese and fruit fillings are called “Viennese” instead. Buttery and flaky, some also have a healthy twist, with whole wheat flour and sesame and sunflower seeds. This makes a good counterpoint to the other Danish breakfast staple, toast with butter and thin slabs of dark chocolate. If you want a savoury punch, reserve one piece of toast to be spread with salmon paste.