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Breakfasts of the World

Forget bacon and eggs. Try a local-style breakfast the next time you travel to Venezuela, Malaysia, India, Japan, and Jamaica.

Nasi lemak, breakfast in Malaysia, image
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Nasi lemak, or coconut rice, is the base for a Malaysian breakfast.



Arepas (ah-ray-pahs) n. cornmeal pancakes

Made from precooked white corn flour, arepas are dense and moist. They’re served sizzling hot from the griddle and are totally unlike any cornbread you’ve had in the States.

Also Order: Arepas are often filled with soft cheese, black beans or stuffed with sandwich fare, such as shredded meats, tomatoes, or chopped onions.

Wash It Down: With a long coffee-growing tradition, Venezuela takes its cup of joe seriously. Guayoyo is equivalent to a caffé americano, and a marron claro grande is pretty much a latte.


Nasi lemak (na-see le-mak) n. coconut rice

Wrapped in banana leaves and eaten on the streets as a finger food, its base is rice (nasi) cooked with coconut milk. Small portions of meat can be added for protein.

Also Order: Toppings include dried anchovies, peanuts, cucumbers, or hard-boiled eggs. Locals add sambal, a unique condiment of dried shrimp paste, made bristling hot with chilies.

Wash It Down: Strong, bitter Malaysian kopi (coffee) is mixed with sweetened condensed milk and often served iced.


Dosas (dò-sas) n. Thin lentil-and-rice pancakes

Think of these as sourdough flapjacks—crispy outside and spongy inside. After the batter bubbles overnight with yeast, they’re fried to crunchy perfection on a flat stone.

Also Order: You can’t go wrong with savory curried lentils. Coconut-and-cilantro chutney is a good choice.

Wash It Down: Order masala chai from a chai wallah (tea seller) for this favorite that includes spices such as fennel and black pepper.


Misoshiru (me-so-she-roo) n. miso soup

Miso soup, a Japanese dietary staple, combines fermented soybean paste with dashi and fish stock. To many, the fresh aroma of misoshiru signals a new day has dawned.

Also Order: Japan’s seafood obsession extends to breakfast, with dried seaweed and fish such as salmon commonly added. Rice, pickled vegetables, and raw egg are other frequent soup stir-ins.

Wash It Down: Although coffee has been gaining popularity in recent years, a steaming cup of green tea remains the beverage of choice in the morning.


Saltfish and Ackee (salt-fish and ack-key) n. sautéed fish and fruit

Jamaicans eat ackee, their national fruit, cooked. Sauteed, it looks a bit like scrambled eggs, but the addition of salt cod, tomatoes, onions and fiery peppers elevates it to a delicacy.

Also Order: You’ll want something neutral like fried green plantains or a slab of mild Jamaican hard-dough bread to balance the incendiary habanero peppers in the main course.

Wash It Down: Although you can never go wrong with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, locals opt for herbal mint, ginger or lemon grass “bush teas.”



This article was first published in November 2012 in Traveler. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.