World breakfast (+recipes)

By Grant Allen

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Grant Allen looks at how other parts of the world start the day

Photo / Michael Craig
Photo / Michael Craig

The recent talk about horse meat ending up in British TV dinners got me thinking about our idiosyncratic attitudes to food.

How does a culture decide what is okay to eat, what is not, and when to eat it?

My butcher tells me she is often asked for horse by her European customers. It is legal to sell horse meat in New Zealand but she is reluctant to stock it, concerned about the negative reactions from other customers.

You can now buy alpaca, kangaroo and crocodile. I love rabbit, I've eaten possum (a bit like chicken) but I wouldn't eat dog in Bali.

The sight of monkeys for sale in China horrified me but I am quite prepared to eat a crayfish, paua or fish, pulled from the sea, slaughtered and eaten fresh as possible. In some cultures, this may seem barbaric.

In the same way cultures differ on what is acceptable to eat, they also vary on what kinds of foods should be eaten at different times of day.

Take breakfast, for example. While we might start the day with muesli and toast, in other parts of the world you might reach for black rice, figs or fish curry.

I checked in with a few friends living outside New Zealand to see what they are eating in the morning. Here are their responses:

Peter Chichester, living in India:

Indians are mad for chai (sweet tea), which they drink with cinnamon and pepper, or ground ginger, cardamom, milk and sugar. They drink it with sweet biscuits flavoured with ginger and cardamom (like shortbread), or a deep fried pea flour pastry called papara. Fresh cane sugar is always good, and sometimes they eat a puri-type bread stuffed with sugar then deep fried.

Robert Oliver, living in China:

Shanghai street food is not just a night time affair. From the wee hours, steam pours over the residential streets from large bamboo steamers filled with fluffy buns - sweet pork, pungent chive and red bean. Rich brothy noodle soups, glutinous rice cakes and of course Shanghai's classic pan-fried pork buns are great to grab on the run. My favourite: duck-egg pancakes filled with chilli, chives in a crispy flour dough, rolled up to go. So good!

Etienne Moly, now living in Auckland, starts the day as he would in France:

A croissant and short black coffee, maybe a pain au chocolate. His son likes tartine - toasted french stick spread with butter, honey or preserves.
Cafe au lait, a big bowl of milky coffee, is often served. It is good for dipping your croissant in!

My best source of information was foodie tour guide Mary Taylor:

"Ever wake up wondering where you are? The breakfast always gives it away; if I can smell that sweet vanilla aroma of pandan leaves cooking with black rice, then I know I'm in my spiritual home of Bali. If I look down from my window and get a waft of trays of freshly baked simit bread from trays being carried on men's heads, I know I'm in Turkey, and if I hear the sound of a village chanting as they bring in their fishing nets I know my Sri Lankan fresh fish breakfast is not far away."


Balinese black rice pudding
Turkish baked simit with a mezze platter
Sri Lankan fish curry with red rice and seeni sambal (sweet onion chutney)
Seeni sambal

- Herald on Sunday

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