The Not-So Starving Student—Breakfast in My Grandma’s Hometown

The Not-So Starving Student—Breakfast in My Grandma’s Hometown

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting my grandma’s hometown of Hefei, China.  The city has a population of 3 million and is one of the fastest growing cities in China.  In a bustling city, I had the opportunity to try some of the traditional breakfasts locals have on a day to day basis.  Being a busy student, I’ve lived on cereal and quick oats for the past 4 years of my life.  However, having the opportunity to sit down for a proper breakfast this summer was one of the most appealing items on my agenda.  And sitting down for breakfast in my grandma’s hometown meant more to me than words could express.  Here are some of the most memorable breakfast options in town.


Unlike the traditional cup of milk for breakfast, bowled soymilk is a common breakfast item in Hefei and many other cities in China.  Soymilk has all the characteristics of a glass of milk except perhaps the fragrant bean scent.  At first glance, it looks as if a bowl of rich 2% milk.

Green Chives Cake:

While most of us have heard of green onion cake, many have not encountered its infamous twin, the green Chives cake.  The green Chives cake is a close competitor in taste but is more authentic to mainland China.  For one, green chives cake isn’t a cake at all.  It’s a pan-fried, vermicelli and egg filled perfection that is hard to put into words.

Chinese crepe:

“Jian Bing” or, directly translated, “pan-fried cake” is a variation of crepe with savory flavors.  This breakfast item is well-known all over China and has made its way to street food joints in North America as well.  The crepe contains a sweet paste, crunchy fried biscuit, cilantro, and optional eggs or Chinese doughnut.  The ingredients are then rolled into a thin crepe that folds perfectly onto itself.  The flavors profile is complex with a unique texture that is both crispy and soft.

Soft Tofu:

In the morning, many locals sit down for a hearty bowl of soft tofu.  Soft tofu has a pudding-like consistency and is flavored with a highly savory sauce that is mixed in with the tofu.  This popular breakfast item goes along perfectly with other pan-fried items and balances out the grease from the former.  Soft tofu is quite unlike any other tofu you’ve had.  In fact, this tofu is so intensely soft that it can be drunk right out from your bowl.

Shao Mai:

often known as Siu-Mai in North America, this beautiful creation is as uniquely delicious as it looks.  Inside the translucent wrap is a mixture of sticky rice, ground pork, and mushrooms.  Together, the wrap and filling are steamed and served hot.