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Breakfast in Beijing

April 23, 2014

To read the Chinese version of the post, please click here.

Steam Bread Roll (image source:

Zaodian (早点), which is the Mandarin word for breakfast, usually is served starting around 6 a.m. Typically, breakfast is a quick meal. Common breakfast items include mantou (馒头) which are steamed buns, congee (米粥) rice porridge, and steamed bread rolls (花卷儿).

Having never visited Beijing, I decided to familiarize myself with Beijing breakfast and snack foods as best I could by visiting Boston’s Chinatown, just around the corner from our office. I jumped at the chance for a small midweek adventure and brought along one of my Chinese speaking co-workers to help decipher menus and signs. We began with a search for jiān bĭng (煎饼). Jiān bĭng (煎饼) is a street food similar to a crêpe. It is made from a batter of wheat and grain flour on a griddle with an egg. Jiān bĭng (煎饼) can be topped with scallions, yóutiáo (油条) and cilantro, and can be thick, thin, crispy or chewy, but is almost always folded several times before serving.

See how jiān bĭng is made:

The yóutiáo (油条) that is served inside the jiān bĭng (煎饼) is crispy fried dough, often served on its own as an accompaniment to congee (米粥) or dou jiang (豆浆), a soy bean milk.

youtiao and dou jiang, the popular breakfast combination in China. (image source:

In Beijing, jiān bĭng (煎饼) is found on nearly every street corner, especially outside of subway stations or tourist attractions. Unfortunately for us, that’s not the case in Boston’s Chinatown. We would welcome a few jiān bĭng (煎饼) food trucks, though! We stopped by a few different places only to realize that the restaurant we were looking for had taken it off of their menu.

Food Truck (breakfast) A food truck selling baozi, steamed buns in Boston Chinatown.

On our way back to the office, we came across a food truck selling baozi, steamed buns. These were filled with pork and were about the size of my fist. The dough is more bread-like than like a dumpling, but because it is steamed, the texture is different from typical bread. With its sticky, almost spongy, hot dough and pork and green onion filling, baozi may be my new go-to afternoon snack. We also tried a bowl of dou jiang (豆浆) soy milk, which wasn’t too different from American soy milk except that it wasn’t sweet at all.

Baozi with pork stuffing Baozi with pork stuffing

If you’d like to experience a typical Beijing breakfast but can’t find it in your neighborhood, check out this recipe and try making your own jiān bĭng (煎饼). Be sure to let us know how it turns out via our Facebook page!

Teaching Tips and Activities: Karaoke Time!

There is a song about the popular breakfast combination of dou jiang and youtiao, called “Perfect Match” or “豆浆油条” by Singapore pop-star JJ Lin.

To make this readily accessible to teachers and students, we created a unique lyrics worksheet for this song with translations in Pinyin and English to use in classroom activities. We hope the song brings joy to your classroom and the accompanying lyric sheets facilitate your lesson planning!

Song Download