Eat This: Traditional Chinese Breakfast
Recently I had the pleasure of accompanying some friends to Flushing, Queens, home to the second largest Chinatown in NYC. Luckily, we had a friend/native guide with us who was originally from Taiwan and had grown up in Flushing. Sometimes it honestly felt like we were in another country!
We started our day with breakfast at a small place called No. 1 East Restaurant. I would have had no idea what to order, so our friend went ahead and ordered what he said was a traditional Chinese breakfast (which is not dim sum as many may think). This included two different soy milk porridges, one sweet and one savory (or salty as it’s called on the menu), as well as crullers and sesame cakes. We also got some flaky radish su bing, spinach dumplings, and scallion pancakes (not traditional breakfast items, but yummy nonetheless).
The soy milk porridges were very interesting. The sweet one was simply soy milk heated with sugar, and not quite as thick as what we think of as porridge. It was comforting though, reminding me a little of a thinner cream of wheat. The savory one was a completely different animal though. We’re not quite sure what was in it, but definitely soy sauce and green onions and maybe some sesame oil and definitely something that made it thicker–I’ve read it’s vinegar. It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted before, and definitely nothing I’ve had for breakfast, but it was delicious.
The other traditional elements, the Chinese crullers and sesame cakes, were combined to make something of a bread sandwich. A Chinese cruller is neither sweet nor savory; the dough is very plain and it is fried up to a nice crisp. They are served in long sticks. The sesame cake is a little flat cake of flaky dough covered in sesame seeds. We watched as our friend/guide proceeded to rip open the sesame cake and stuff the folded cruller inside, creating, as I said, a bread sandwich.
On its own the sandwich was a bit flavorless, but it tasted delicious when dipped into either of the soy milks, especially the savory one.
The flaky radish su bing were two little flaky buns covered with sesame seeds. Inside it was full of slivered radishes, which sounds weird but it was really delicious–who knew radishes could be so tasty?
The spinach dumplings were soft and pleasantly chewy, filled with freshly chopped spinach. According to Serious Eats, spinach dumplings are somewhat of a rare breed. The scallion pancakes were good, but pretty much on par with what I’ve had at other Chinese restaurants. I was still questioning whether the soy milks, crullers, and sesame cakes were traditional, until I walked through the restaurant to the bathroom and noticed that nearly everyone else in the restaurant, all of whom were Chinese, had at least one of these items on their table. If you are feeling adventurous, head out to Flushing for a unique breakfast experience!
No. 1 East Restaurant
41-27 Main St
Flushing, NY 11369 (718) 460-8686