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May 19, 2012 08:29 PM

Why aren't eggs more prevalent in traditional Chinese/Taiwanese breakfasts?

Aside from Thousand Year Old Eggs or Preserved Duck Eggs (used in congee), eggs aren't really used in Chinese or Taiwanese breakfast dishes.

Even crepes a la Chinese style do not use eggs.

Your typical, traditional Chinese breakfast is usually some sort of rice porridge or congee, sweet or savory pastry, or maybe tzong-zi, or some combo of dou-jian (or soybean milk) and/or yiou-tiao (or crullers).

But where are the eggs?


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  1. Growing up next to my best friend's Chinese Family.....they never ate breakfast..

    When shopping in NYC's Chinatown, I have seen many coffee shops and bakeries where patrons are dining on rice plates with two fried eggs on top, on my morning excursions in the past.

    4 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      That may be more of an unintended affectation of living in the U.S.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        I used to have a very poorly translated from Chinese to English cookbook titled "Chinese Snacks." IIRC, a lot of dishes, rice, soup and noodle ones, had eggs in them, kind of floating around. I don't recall them being specifically breakfast dishes, but they seem to accompany breakfast type foods.

        1. re: mcf

          But were they traditional breakfast dishes?

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I think some were, sorry I don't still have the book. I just don't think it's unusual to see Chinese folks eating eggs with their rice or noodles at any time of day, was my point. I bought the book decades ago, but this looks exactly like the cover, same title:

            Amazing book, very traditional/authentic.

    2. Eggs aren't common in breakfast in France or Italy either... usually just a pastry - if that - and espresso.

      Eggs show up much more in these two cuisines at lunch, or in starter dishes at dinner.

      It seems that England and America are the big 'egg breakfast' lands...(and by extension, colonized areas that did or do belong to them; Australia, certain places in caribbean and the America's).

      1 Reply
      1. re: gingershelley

        It seems that England and America are the big 'egg breakfast' lands...(and by extension, colonized areas that did or do belong to them; Australia, certain places in caribbean and the America's).

        I wonder why that is.

      2. This might be an americanization but I've had tea eggs (and hard boiled eggs in braised pork belly over rice porridge), salted eggs (hard boiled eggs marinated in very salty water for days/weeks), and salted scrambled eggs w/ tofu (and sometimes shrimp and tomatoes) and scallions for breakfast. And something like this:

        My mom was big on improvising, though, so many could have been her creation. Or, maybe they're not typically breakfast foods but she served them as such?

        She also made variations on oyster omelets/pancakes:

        1. I know eggs in Chinese culture carry a fair amount of value on them. Maybe breakfast is not considered worthy enough of a meal to justify the precious use of eggs?

          1. eggs are considered a luxury item in China traditionally, I think, that's why they are not available for casual daily consumption. People generally start the day with something filling and cheap, that's why a lot of it is starch based.

            2 Replies
            1. re: idlehouse

              Bingo. And back in the day, meat was considered expensive, particularly lean cuts of beef or pork. Parts, including cuts with lots of fat, were throwaway items, high calorie content (and of course filling) but not highly desirable. Not easy to cook and not everyone liked to bite down on animal fat...and thus sweet and sour pork was born out of creative necessity to make cheap fatty pork more palatable, which evolved to a goopy American Chinese oversauced rendition that some snobs now think is inauthentic Chinese and in traditional Cantonese cooking evolved to using pork shoulder cuts (more lean and tastier)..

              With that said, some traditional Cantonese blue collar breakfasts included familiar dim sum items steamed in tin pots over rice, like pork spareribs and sometimes pork spareribs with chicken feet. Or preserved sausage over rice. There's a misconception that congee represents all of Chinese/Cantonese breakfast, which is simply not true...

              1. re: idlehouse

                If eggs were really a traditional luxury item -- not necessarily disagreeing with you -- then why are tea eggs de rigeur for plate lunches like pork chop rice, which is really the food of the hoi polloi.