Yinchuan mornings are often cool and breezy. The mornings are perfect for an early walk to find some good, local breakfast foods. Many noodle shops open early as locals tend to eat various noodle dishes for breakfast, but you can also find more traditional breakfast places in just about every neighborhood.
These small shops serve foods that are commonly eaten for breakfast across the country, such as 粥 “zhou” (porridge), 包子 “baozi” (steamed buns filled with meat or vegetables), 油条 “youtiao” (fried dough sticks), and 茶叶蛋 “cha ye dan” (tea eggs).
Basics to understanding the menu:
This is a steamed bun with a meat or vegetable filling. They are often filled with pork and various vegetables, but in Ningxia you will find many beef and vegetarian options. A version of these steamed buns is 小笼包 and is smaller than other types of baozi and sometimes a bit soupy inside. These are very common in Ningxia.
This is a soupy, grain-based porridge eaten from a bowl with a spoon. The most common types are 黑米 (black rice), 小米 (millet), and 八宝 (“eight treasures”, which is typically a mixture of dates, red beans, rice, nuts, and sugar). Similar to western staples like oatmeal or grits, these porridges can be salty or sweet and will vary in textures from shop to shop. Most people eat, or drink, a bowl of zhou along with their baozi.
Youtiao is a fried dough stick, similar in taste to an unsweetened donut. Some shops will cut them into sections and place them on a tray for you to eat easily, like this one. I like to ask for sugar (糖) to dip mine in if it isn’t already sitting out on the table. If you catch them early enough in the morning, they are fresh and warm and a simple but delicious addition to your morning. There are other versions of fried dough usually available, such as 麻花, which is just a fried dough twist that has a thicker and crunchier outer layer than 油条.
茶叶蛋 cha ye dan
These hard-boiled eggs are soaked in a mixture of tea, soy sauce, vinegar, and spices, which gives a rich, salty flavor. However, if you are more interested in the idea of a simple boiled egg without any added flavors, you can always ask for a 鸡蛋, which just means chicken egg, or 煮透鸡蛋, specifically a hard-boiled chicken egg. Most places also serve fried eggs, which are called 煎蛋.
豆浆 dou jiang
This is simply soy milk, which is often heated and served in a bowl with a spoon or in a plastic to-go cup with a straw. This is the most common drink at breakfast time and sugar is usually available to be added if you would like it.
In addition to baozi shops, there are also plenty of bakeries and bread shops along the roads where you can buy a quick snack for breakfast. These breads are characteristically dry and crunchy, but if you take a minute to explore, you can also find sweet, soft breads that are quite tasty.
Guest post written by Ashleigh Moore