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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

Africa and the Middle East


This cradle of civilization can also lay claim to one of the most popular dishes of the region: ful medames, slow-cooked fava beans mashed with olive oil, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Here, it’s mopped up with Arabic breads similar to pitas. The local rendition of cream of wheat is belila, served hot or cold and sprinkled with shredded coconut.


In Israel, the lavish morning buffet (salads; fresh fruit and vegetables; cheese; smoked fish; baba ghanoush) dates from the beginnings of the kibbutz, when workers fueled up for the day ahead. The popular shakshuka (eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce) was introduced by Tunisian immigrants.


As with the rest of the Middle East, the morning meal centers around spreads such as hummus or baba ghanoush with pita bread, the thick yogurt called labneh, and salads of peppers or cucumbers. Here, you’ll also find the pizza-like manakish (baked dough topped with spices, meats, or cheese) and eggs with awarma (minced meat).

United Arab Emirates

An Arabian breakfast may include halloumi cheese, with a flat bread called saj that is twirled like a pizza, shaped on a round pillow, and baked on a domed metal griddle. Don’t expect a western omelette: the local favorite is filled with fresh coriander and marinated olives.


You may eat laasida, a thick porridge made with barley meal and served with butter and honey, or a square layered bread called msemmen with amlou, a dip of toasted almonds, argan oil, and honey.

Southern and Eastern Africa

Mandazi are the doughnuts of Tanzania and Kenya, usually hole-less, sometimes with ground nuts added to the dough, and served with locally grown coffee or chai; chapatis are similar to warm flour tortillas. A tooth-achingly sweet pastry native to Cape Town, South Africa, is koeksister (like a doughnut dipped in syrup), eaten with extra-strong moer koffie or rooibos tea, which is naturally caffeine-free and grown only in South Africa. Variations on cornmeal mush are called ugali in the east and mealies in the south. Franschhoek salmon, from the waters off the Western Cape province, is smoked and served with eggs.


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