The most important meal of the day is too often ignored, lost amidst the grooming and rushing, a mere afterthought to caffeine. It takes hungry, curious children to remind us to slow down (acorn pancakes!) or friends visiting from afar to convince us to unearth our skillets.

As someone who grew up slurping big bowls of soup before heading off to school, I still haven’t learned how to enjoy cold cereal or dry toast. Give me some leftover rice and a runny fried egg, though, and I’m ready for anything that Monday wants to throw at me.

You’d think that in the Bay Area, we’d be able to find breakfasts from around the world more easily: a plate of Turkish cheese and olives with some sourdough bread, spoonfuls of soft pongal or tender idli, even a bowl of pho or mohinga before 11 am. I imagine, though, that in the quiet of our kitchens, on all sides of the Bay, folks are preparing breakfast far outside the confines of frosted flakes. It’s our most private meal, the one most dependent on comfort, habit and home.

The Irish and Filipinos, hearty eaters, have no problems sharing their breakfasts with a paying public. Nor do the Chinese, whether you’re in the mood for a soothing bowl of jook or a parade of dim sum.

To get you thinking about morning meals….

Jon Huck’s photographic study of breakfast is elegant and inspirational (via Mister Starfish).

And for a quick tour around the world, you can taste…


Not for the faint of heart, a traditional Irish breakfast covers all the important categories of meat: sausage, bacon and egg. Don’t forget the Batchelors beans, a tomato, and both black and white pudding. Brew lots of strong Irish tea to wash it all down.

Durty Nelly’s
2328 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 664-2555

Blarney Stone
5625 Geary Blvd
San Francisco, CA, 94121
(415) 386-9914


Although the range of Pinoy breakfast is impressive, the default in Daly City has long been a mound of fried garlic-flecked rice served alongside Spanish-style longaniza sausage and a generous pile of sweet tocino, Southeast Asia’s answer to bacon. Like the Irish, Filipinos like to round out their meal with a fried egg and a bright spot of tomato.

RSM Oriental Food Mart
1500 Sycamore Ave
Hercules, CA 94547

2055 Gellert Blvd, #5
Daly City, CA 94015
(650) 878-3591

Mercury Appetizer Bar
1434 Lombard Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 922-1434


Hot and filling, easy to make and even easier to eat, this soup appears in pretty much every Asian country. Even its translation has nuances of flavor: congee, cream of rice soup, rice porridge, rice gruel. It’s an innocent base upon which anything can be built. My own favorites are thinly slices of fish and freshly shucked clams. My husband’s family serves it with pickles. My mom makes it with duck bones, while every year, during the last week of November, there’s a flood of turkey versions across the country. Fortunately, jook restaurants abound, and their menus are long. Be sure to order a plate of you tiao “fried ghosts” crullers on the side.

Gum Kuo Restaurant
388 9th St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 268-1288

Hing Lung
674 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 398-8838

Joy Luck Place
88 E 4th Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 343-6988

Breaking Fast 9 April,2008Thy Tran

  • Krizia

    Thank you for including the Pinoy Breakfast in this post. Being Filipina myself, it’s rare to have our cuisine spotlighted by anyone other than…ourselves 😀 Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I love your open question about why there aren’t more varieties from different ethnic backgrounds usually available for this sacred meal!


Thy Tran

Thy Tran writes literary nonfiction about food, the rituals of the kitchen, and the many ways eating and cooking both connect and separate communities around the world. She co-authored the award-winning guide, Kitchen Companion, and her work has appeared in numerous other books, including Asia in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Cultural Travel Guide and Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fine Cooking and Saveur. A recipient of a literary grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Thy is currently working on a collection of essays about how food changes in families across time and place.

Though trained as a professional chef, she works on cookbooks by day, then creates literary chapbooks by night. An old letterpress and two cabinets of wood and lead type occupy a corner of her writing studio, for she is as committed to the art and craft of bookmaking as she is to the power of words themselves. In addition to writing, editing, teaching and printing, Thy remains active in local food justice and global food sovereignty movements. Visit her website,, to learn more about her culinary adventures.

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