Anna King Shahab goes around the world for breakfast — without leaving Auckland.

Eggs benedict isn't going to slip off the radar any time soon, but there's always room for new. Canvas went in search of Auckland's most exciting breakfast dishes. We found a lot to love - both in terms of taste and texture, and also in the stories behind certain dishes that have landed on local breakfast menus from all corners of the world.

Jian bing guo zi from Bun Hut

Jian bing, a kind of folded, stuffed crepe, originated in the Northeast of China and has spread in popularity to become one of the most popular breakfasts in China; more recently it's fast winning fans in the West (especially in the food-truck-happy United States). There are two schools of jian bing, those made from a wheat flour batter and those made with a batter of green mung bean flour. The latter predominates in the city of Tianjin, which is where Peter Pan, owner of Balmoral's Bun Hut hails from.

"Our jian bing guo zi are made with mungbean flour and egg and stuffed with you tiao - fried bread stick," Pan says. They go down a treat in the early morning here - the only restaurant open at breakfast time on this strip and bustling with customers. Traditionally cooked on a wide circular griddle with a batter very thin and tricky to handle, jian bing aren't easily made at home so it's a dish folks go out for, either in simple cafes or bought from street carts attached to the back of bicycles. Jian bing are eaten with the hands.

Gozleme from Feriza's

"In Turkey you can find gozleme being made on the street everywhere you go; you get to watch the whole process," says Feriza's co-owner and chef, Feriza Isik. It's a similar story at the restaurant, where you'll see Isik and her team mixing, kneading and rolling the yoghurt-enriched yufka dough by hand to start the process of making these flatbreads, which are then filled and cooked on a flat griddle.


It's an exacting task because, as Isik explains, "The dough has to be thick enough to hold the filling but thin enough to crisp up well." The yoghurt helps prevent the dough from being too brittle, and Isik fondly remembers that at home in Turkey, both the yoghurt and the dough would be made in a everlasting cycle. "My gozleme is a traditional recipe from my home village of Guneyevler Koyu in Divrigi. It has been passed down from my mum, and she got it from her mum."

Isik's menu offers several filling options, including vegetarian options, and the pastry can be made gluten-free on request, too. Pictured here is one of the most popular, both in Turkey and here in Auckland.

"The spinach and feta is a good combination of savoury flavours. We use very fresh ingredients and the taste is just like in Turkey; it's village-style food - very simple, very fresh."

Congee from Small Fry at Te Tuhi

A typical breakfast dish throughout Asia - with myriad names and preparations, congee (the name for it in Guangdong, which has become part of the English lexicon) is a gruel made with rice or sometimes millet, depending on the region. In Auckland it's hard to find anywhere offering congee at breakfast time, but Ruby White flies the flag at her cafe, Small Fry, at Pakuranga's Te Tuhi Gallery.

"Congee is a peasant dish," White says. "You could feed more people if the rice was cooked down into a gruel. The flavours are humble and underwhelming, but in a really wholesome, nourishing way. Your insides do a happy dance when you eat it."

Small Fry's congee isn't traditional: White uses brown rice and a miso base instead of the usual white rice and chicken stock. "I wanted this to be something vegetarians and vegans [just omit the egg] could enjoy. Fresh and dried shiitake and crispy korengo add texture, but the best thing about my congee is the fresh youtiao [Chinese fried bread stick]. It's rare to get fresh youtiao with your congee even in Asia; it's usually precooked early in the morning so by the time you eat it it's gone cold and soft. I cook them to order, so they are still hot and crispy."

Arepas from Ola's Latin Food, A food truck

Arepas are popping up on a fair few Latin-inspired menus round town, but to get them at breakfast time, fresh off the grill, steaming hot and fragrant, you need to seek out Ola's food truck (check their Facebook page for times and locations), run by Sofia Dostal and Maurizio Trotta.

"In Venezuela, where Maurizio is from, arepas are the daily bread," says Dostal, who hails from Argentina. Cooked on a grill and stuffed with various fillings, arepas are enjoyed any time of day, but are especially common for breakfast. Although they're simple in terms of ingredients - just fine-ground masa [corn], water, oil and a pinch of salt. Shaping the wet, sticky dough takes time and there's skill in achieving perfect, fluffy-centred arepas. In Central and South America, arepas are less often made from scratch at home; they're bought freshly made from shops or street-carts, stuffed with fillings if you're on the go, or bulk to take home and fill for the family. Ola's boasts a variety of filling options.

"In the morning," says Dostal, "the most popular choice from our menu is the Catira chorizo: free-range scrambled eggs with greens, cheddar cheese and Spanish chorizo".

Malawach from Ima

Israel is a melting pot of cultures and their cuisines, and every dish tells a story of migration - in this way the menu at Israeli-born Yael Shochat's Ima is a kind of multi-faceted history lesson. Shochat is particularly fond of the Yemenite dish malawach, which sees fried pastry served with an egg, grated tomato, creme fraiche and a fresh green chilli sauce called zhoug.

"The Yemeni diaspora is one of many influences that have shaped Israeli cuisine; the significant Yemeni population has brought with it a fantastic and unique food culture."

Shochat reckons malawach is one of those perfectly balanced dishes. "It's crunchy, chewy, rich and spicy, with the tomatoes adding a sweet and sour note and the creme fraiche a mellowing note. The zhoug has a complex spice from chilli, garlic and fresh coriander." Put an egg on it and you have one of the most taste bud-stimulating, satisfying breakfasts in the city.