exotic food china

12 Chinese Traditional Breakfasts Across Regions

Table of Contents

Have you ever wondered what Chinese people eat for breakfast? The answer can be very complex due to the diverse food cultures, local ingredients, weathers, etc. across regions. With every region tailoring its unique dishes, breakfast in China is not only a gastronomic extravaganza but also a beautiful reflection of its people’s lifestyle and culture.

Chinese breakfast across regions
Beef Hulatang

Regional Diversities

Northern China

baozi and soy milk
Baozi and Soy milk

In Northern China, breakfast is often hearty, comforting, and warm. The cold climate necessitates food that can withstand the harsh conditions, resulting in dishes high in carbs and proteins. The famous Steamed Buns or Baozi, served piping hot, are densely packed with various fillings and serve as a perfect kickstart to the day. Accompanied by a warm glass of soy milk, itself a variety of decadent flavors, it symbolizes essential Northern China breakfast fare. But the regional specialties don’t end there. From millet porridge to steamed bread (mantou), Northern China offers a stunning array of comforting breakfast options.

Eastern China

xiaolongbao and wonton
Xiaolongbao and Wonton

Breakfast in Eastern China is a delicate balance of flavors and textures. Soup dumplings, or Xiao Long Bao, are tiny packages of surprise, filled with delectable meat and a mouthful of aromatic broth. Rice congee, a staple across this region, is served alongside preferred meats, vegetables, or pickles, showcasing the characteristic versatility of ingredients and flavors. Each province has its little experimental twist to traditional dishes, reflecting the region’s culinary creativity.

Western China


Embracing influence from Central Asia, Western China’s breakfasts introduce robust flavors and ingredients. The Uighur bread, locally known as Nang, is often flavored with sesame seeds, onion, or even sugar. Cheese Momo, Tibetan dumplings, often paired with a spicy sauce, are another Western breakfast delight, encapsulating the region’s spirit. The availability of diverse local produce has remarkably shaped the breakfast culture here, making it unique and exciting.

tibetan momo
Tibetan Momo

Southern China

dim sum
Dim Sum

Southern China, with its diverse platter, epitomizes culinary dynamism. The much-loved Dim Sum, a series of bite-sized treasures, and Rice Noodles, often served in a variety of hearty broths, are breakfast staples. The Cantonese breakfast culture, especially, is renowned for its variety, freshness, and the propensity of its people to enjoy longer, lavish breakfasts – a nod to Guangdong’s prosperous past and vibrant social life.

rice noodles
Rice Noodles

Central China


While Central China may not be internationally renowned for its breakfast, it is indisputably an underrated gem. The Hot Dry Noodles or Re Gan Mian, particularly iconic in Wuhan, combine robust flavors to create a delightful noodle dish topped with an array of ingredients. Doupi, another local delicacy, is a savory rice pudding stuffed with minced meat and bean sprouts, wrapped in bean skin, showcasing the region’s unique take on breakfast.


7 Signature Chinese Breakfast Dishes

1. Hulatang

Hulatang Shop
Hulatang Shop

Hulatang, also known as Hot Pepper Soup, is a popular traditional breakfast in Henan Province, Central China. Henan, located at the heart of the country, boasts a rich culinary tradition steeped in history. Known for its hearty and robust flavors, Henan cuisine often reflects the Chinese saying, “Eat in Guangzhou at breakfast, and enjoy a lunch in Suzhou, but never miss the dinner of Henan”.

Among the numerous culinary delicacies that Henan has to offer, the Hulatang stands out for its uniqueness, especially as a breakfast dish.

A Deep Dive into Hulatang

Hulatang, literally translated, means ‘pepper spicy soup’. It’s a fitting name for a dish that is loved for its heat and spice, perfect for jump-starting your day. A bowl of Hulatang is typically brimming with dough pieces, vermicelli, tofu, green onion, caraway, and other vibrant ingredients. Each ingredient either tenderly absorbs or assertively contributes to the full-bodied, hearty soup.

The broth of Hulatang is deep and complex, its flavors developed with the careful blend of various herbs and spices. Star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chili, and Da Zao (Chinese jujube) are some of the indispensable components that go into creating its distinctive broth.

Hot and spicy as it might be, Hulatang is balanced by the mellow and tender textures of ingredients like tofu and dough drop. For the locals, nothing beats starting their day with a bowl of piping hot Hulatang, paired with a Huoshao (a type of baked bun popular in Henan) to soak up all the rich flavors.

Donkey Burger
Donkey Burger

I have made a easy Hulatang recipe you can follow at home in 30 minutes.

2. Hot Dry Noodles (Re Gan Mian)

hot dry noodles reganmian
Hot Dry Noodles

Hot dry noodles, also known as “re gan mian” in Mandarin, is a traditional Chinese dish originating from the Hubei Province and is particularly popular in the city of Wuhan. It is one of the ten most famous noodle dishes in China and has become a symbol of Wuhan’s culinary culture.

The main ingredients of hot dry noodles are alkaline noodles (wheat noodles often lye-water or kansui), sesame paste, soy sauce, pickled vegetables, chili oil, garlic, green onions, and sometimes pickled radish and chopped peanuts.

Sauce, the Soul of Hot Dry Noodles

hot dry noodles sauce
Hot Dry Noodles sauce

The sauce is an essential aspect of hot dry noodles. While the ingredients can vary, it typically includes sesame paste, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and chili oil to taste. The objective is to create a sauce that balances savory, spicy, sweet and sour flavors.


After the noodles and sauce are mixed together, the dish is often topped with an array of flavorful components, which usually include pickled long beans or zha cai (a type of Chinese pickled mustard stem), chopped garlic, and chopped green onions. To add a crunchy texture, crushed roasted peanuts and sesame seeds may also be added.


Unlike many other noodle dishes, hot dry noodles are typically served at room temperature. After preparing the noodles and the sauce, they’re combined and mixed thoroughly until all the noodles are evenly coated in the sauce. The dish is then topped with the various toppings and is ready to serve.

The charm of hot dry noodles lies in their robust flavor profile, balance their spicy, sweet, sour, and umami components, and the varied textures from the chewy noodles to the crunch of the pickles and peanuts. Despite the name, the dish is not typically very spicy, but it can be adjusted to individual preference.

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About the Author

Hello, I’m Lilith Wong. Welcome to my blog where I share authentic Chinese food and drink recipes.

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