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  • Hui Hui Lee, RD/LD

Breakfast tours around the world


Hello there! How are you guys doing? Here we are in March 2022 now, the month when spring begins! I can’t wait to enjoy some gorgeous, warmer days of spring!!!

For this March nutrition talk, I am thinking of switching gears (just a little) to have a casual talk about cultural food. I have been wanting to share some cultural food ideas with you for quite some time now, but just happen to not find a good time to do so. Thanks to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they created the theme of “Celebrate a World of Flavor” for National Nutrition Month 2022.


As you know, we all are unique in many different ways (bodies, goals, background, tastes, and preferences), which makes our eating/lifestyle habits so much different. Therefore, there is NO specific healthy eating habit (that is long lasting) that fits everyone around the world. By embracing world culture and cuisine, and acknowledging our differences, we are able to make informed food choices and develop long-term healthy eating habits to meet our goals. Learning about other cultural foods also helps to add variety to our diet, by incorporating new ingredients, cooking methods, and flavors. I know some cultural foods might not sound as good as others, on your first impression, but I highly encourage you to give it a shot anyway. Sometimes, those foods might turn out to be your new favorite.


~ If you never try, you’ll never know - by John Barrow ~


I am a breakfast person, so I am thinking of sharing several classic breakfast items served in different parts of the world. I randomly settled with six different cultural breakfasts. We will start from the east side of the world then gradually move to the west (China, Vietnam, India, Italy, North Africa, Mexico).


 

China: I made millet porridge/congee. The consistency of the porridge varies per individual’s preference, just like how we prepare our oatmeal. Chinese believe millet porridge possesses potential benefits over gastrointestinal health (I totally support the idea that millet porridge is great for GI health, because of the high fiber content in millet). I served this millet porridge with four side dishes (stir-fried bok choy, braised shiitake mushroom, fermented tofu, and chinese pickled cucumber) and a handful of chopped green onions. Prior to serving, I like to drizzle some sesame oil (for the taste) on my porridge. For the millet porridge, I adapted the recipe from the Plant-Based Wok.





 

Vietnam: In Vietnam, noodle soup (pho) is commonly served at breakfast. There are two types of broths for the noodle soup, which are beef and chicken. For this time, I tried Chicken pho (pho ga), which is flat rice noodles served in clear chicken broth (infused with aromatic spices), with some shredded chicken, fresh bean sprouts, thai basil, as well as lime juice. You can always prepare this noodle soup ahead of time separately. When you are ready to serve, you just need to quickly put them together, then warm it in the microwave. The recipe adapted from Recipe Tin Eats.




 


India: I made some paneer paratha, which is the indian-style stuffed flatbread with paneer (Indian cheese), fresh chopped herbs (cilantro and mint), garam masala spices. Because I could not find paneer, I substituted it with feta cheese. These paneer paratha are served with raita, along with Chai tea. If I would add more items to this Indian breakfast, I would add some fresh fruits. The paneer paratha is inspired from Cook with Kushi.



 


Italy: After doing some research about what Italians eat for breakfast, I quickly learned that Italians have a very straight-forward breakfast and usually is a sweet-type of breakfast. Classic breakfast items served at Italian homes are a cup of coffee/milk/latte, and whole wheat toasts/Fette Biscottate (the hard, dry rusks) with butter and jam (Jelly). Many cafes/hotels in Italy served fresh baked sweet pastries (like Cornetto, a danish assortment). To make it a balanced breakfast, I would recommend adding some egg dishes (such as boiled egg/scrambled eggs/sunny side up eggs) with a piece of fruit.




 


North Africa (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco): I made shakshuka, which is originally from North Africa - Tunisia. This dish is also very popular in the Middle East. There are many variations of this dish, and I settled on the basic egg Shakshuka. The egg Shakshuka is a skillet dish made with gently poached eggs in a flavorful mixture of spiced tomato and pepper sauce. This breakfast dish is so easy to make, very flavorful and filling. I added some chopped kale to the dish to add some color and additional fiber to the dish, also topped it with feta cheese and fresh basil prior to serving. I highly recommend you to give this recipe a try! The recipe adapted from Feasting at Home.



 


Mexico: Chilaquiles, a breakfast dish mainly served in Mexico. This dish is made with corn tortilla chips cooked in tomato-based sauce, served with crumbled cheese, refried beans and sliced avocado. To make it healthier, I recommend making the corn tortilla chips yourself in the oven or airfryer (this part you can definitely prepare in advance). I learned something interesting about this dish, which is kinda different from how we serve Chilaquiles here in the United States and in Mexico. In the United States, we have Chilaquiles with fried egg(s), but you need to place a special order for a fried egg to go with the dish at the restaurants in Mexico. The recipe was inspired by Cookie and Kate.







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