Breakfast musings — Breakfasts around the world (2 of 2)

By Philip Wagenaar, MD
This item appears on page 52 of the May 2016 issue.

(Second of two parts)

Last month, I compared European breakfasts to American breakfasts. In this issue, I present an outline of different breakfast offerings in selected countries.

Breakfasts around the world

THE CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST — “Continental breakfast” is a ubiquitous term, and it refers to a light breakfast in a hotel or restaurant, etc. It usually includes baked goods, cereal, jam, fruit and fruit juice, coffee, tea or hot chocolate. The foods included in a Continental breakfast vary from hotel to hotel and may even include cold cuts and cheese.

ENGLAND, WALES, SCOTLAND and IRELAND — A “full” British, Welsh, Scottish or Irish breakfast will have toast, cereal or porridge, a fried, scrambled or poached egg, bacon or sausage, a tomato, mushrooms, baked beans and, depending upon the venue, smoked fish.

Discuss your breakfast with the B&B owner the night before and you might get exactly what you want. Instead of the full breakfast, you may end up with a healthy one and you may even be offered pancakes.

NETHERLANDS — Among the breakfast items offered in the Netherlands are sliced breads, rolls, croissants, raisin buns, cold cuts, eggs, cheeses, smoked salmon, other smoked fish, fruit and jams. The following you will find only in the Netherlands: ontbijtkoek (honey cake), beschuit (Dutch rusk) and hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) or similar.

GERMANY and AUSTRIA — German breakfast foods consist of fresh rolls and sweet rolls, cheeses, meats, cold cuts, eggs, fruits, cereals and coffee or tea.

SPAIN — Breakfast in Spain, usually a small meal, consists of bread and pastries with butter or jam, small cakes, wrapped sweets, and cookies such as Magdalenas. You also may find pan con tomate (a toasted baguette with tomato) or a tortilla española (a potato omelet). In addition, there might be the famous churro, a fritter that is frequently dunked in hot chocolate.

With breakfast, you can order various coffees, such as café solo (espresso), café doble (double espresso), café con leche (coffee with milk, usually half and half proportionally, but it depends on the region) and many others.

ITALY — The Italian colazione (breakfast) consists of exceptionally hot espresso, cappuccino or caffè latte. Accompanying this is a cornetto (a smaller, slightly sweet version of the French croissant), a crostata (breakfast tart filled with jam) or different types of doughnuts and/or Viennoiseries: sweet baked goods, such as brioches and strudel di mele (apple strudel).

In many places, Italians have breakfast at an espresso bar. If breakfast is included in your overnight, it will frequently include many types of sweet pastries and tarts.

(BTW, Paying with cash euros in smaller Italian hotels often entitles you to a reduced hotel price, called reduzione in Italian. However, to get the discount, you have to ask for it.)

CROATIA — Croatian breakfasts will delight you with sweet pastries accompanied by cold cuts and eggs.

GREECE — Greek breakfasts vary between the different regions. You can expect some or many of the following: fresh bread, pastries, savory pastries, cheese, cold cuts, eggs, olives, cheese pies, fruits and fruit salads, cereals, tahini, marmalades, cereals and Greek coffee.

ISRAEL — The Israeli hotel breakfast typically is a dairy buffet consisting of cheeses along with sliced vegetables, eggs and bread served with spreads like butter, jam or honey. Olives, herring, hummus and tahini may also be served.

CHINA — Chinese breakfasts differ with the province, as each region has its own distinctive fare. In general, you can expect sweet or salty pancakes, soup, deep-fried bread sticks, noodles, doughnuts, buns and congee (rice porridge). In addition, you may find tea and soy bean milk.

KOREA — A typical Korean breakfast consists of a stew or porridge and rice with side dishes of kimchi, spinach, spicy cucumbers, steamed eggs and tofu.

JAPAN — Ryokans (Japanese inns) serve Japanese breakfasts, while Western-style establishments serve Western as well as Japanese meals.

The Japanese hotel breakfast is made up of steamed white rice or rice porridge, miso soup and Japanese pickles. A raw egg may be dripped on the hot rice, which might be enclosed in nori (dried seaweed). Japanese green tea is a frequent accompaniment, and grilled or cooked fish may pleasantly surprise your palate.

COSTA RICA — The typical Costa Rican breakfast is gallo pinto, consisting of sautéed rice, beans, fried egg, cheese and fried plantain. Savory and sweet corn pancakes (chorreadas) are also served.

As you can see, breakfasts vary throughout the world, and the meal may or may not be included with your hotel nightly rate.

Personally, I love fresh bread with breakfast, and I encourage all readers to seek this out, both at home and abroad. 

Dr. Wagenaar welcomes questions but may not be able to answer them individually. Write to him c/o ITN.