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World's Most Classic Breakfasts

Dim sum breakfast spread at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong in the Harbour room.

Photo: Berton Chang


Great Britain and Ireland

If you’re feeling adventurous, the British Isles may be the ticket. Irish black pudding is made of curdled and boiled pig’s blood, mixed with chunks of pork fat and stuffed into a sausage casing. The Scots have an equally formidable tradition: haggis—sheep’s liver, heart, and lungs mixed with oatmeal and suet, then simmered in the sheep’s intestines. Tamer palates might prefer the classic English breakfast, with eggs, bangers (sausages) or streaky bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms. It’s often called a fry-up for good reason: just about everything on the plate is fried, including the toast. The Brits may add baked beans or bubble and squeak (potatoes mashed with cabbage).


Filmjölk tastes something like a peace accord between sour cream and buttermilk, but it’s eaten like yogurt, in a bowl with cereal. The champion of the Nordic bread basket is knäckebröd, or crispbread, and Swedes start the day with fish roe (smoked or not), made into a spreadable paste with mashed potatoes, according to a centuries-old recipe (also sold in tubes by IKEA stores all over the world).

Central Europe

The Czech “Bohemian” breakfast (similar to those in Austria and Hungary) may include cold cuts, terrines, and hermelin, a soft cheese sometimes pickled with oil and herbs. If you’re lucky, you’ll find palacinka, the local version of crêpes.


A luscious clotted cream called kaymak accompanies many pastries—it’s the mit Schlag of Turkey. Marmalades called recel are made with whole preserved fruits such as green figs. Phyllo stuffed with spinach, beef, or feta is shaped into square, triangular, or cigarette-shaped börek. The egg dish menemen is related to the Israeli shakshuka, sometimes with the addition of black olives.

Southern Europe

Aside from the requisite caffè, an Italian breakfast spread might include cured meats (Parma ham; mortadella from Bologna) and cheeses (pecorino in Rome; smoked scamorza in Puglia). In Spain, potatoes, onions, and eggs are cooked in olive oil and formed into a fat, round tortilla española, from which slices are cut all day long. The slightly more decadent Spanish breakfast is deep-fried churros dunked in bittersweet hot chocolate. In Greece, one look at the contented sheep and goats grazing on any mountain tells you there will be great feta. Breakfast pies are made with phyllo dough and cheese and spinach or wild greens.


The morning porridge has kasha (buckwheat groats) as its base. But that’s breakfast for the hoi polloi. To eat like the czars, choose syrniki (fried cheese pancakes) with sour cream and honey or blini with red caviar.


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