Best brunches from around the world

French toast with blueberry jam
Image courtesy: Flickr/jeffreyw/CC BY 2.0

Here’s a road map to locate the world’s gastronomic treasures.

Dim Sum (Hong Kong)

 

Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What is it?

As much a way of dining as any single dish itself, dim sum is a traditional brunch in Hong Kong and Southern China, where carts filled with plates and steaming baskets of delicious bitesize morsels are pushed through a noisy restaurant and consumed alongside endless cups of hot tea.

Origin

Dim sum traces its roots back to the teahouses located along the Silk Road in China, which began serving small morsels of food to accompany (but not overshadow) the tea. Over the centuries, this practice has been transformed into the venerated culinary tradition practised in Chinese communities around the world, a tradition that brings friends and families together to share a vast variety of little dishes in lively dining halls. Though the recipes have changed over the centuries, tea – dim sum’s original raison d’être – is, of course, still ubiquitous.

Full English Breakfast (UK)

Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Matt Munro

What is it?

Definitions of what comprises a ‘proper’ full English breakfast are hotly contested across England. But it’s generally agreed there are seven core components: bacon, eggs, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, toast and a pool of baked beans. Black pudding is a popular addition, as are ‘bubble and squeak’, potato cakes and hash browns.

Origin

We can trace back the concept of ‘the full English’ to 1861 when Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management extolled the virtues of a big cooked breakfast. While some of her recommendations (broiled sheep’s kidneys, anyone?) have since fallen by the wayside and fewer people tackle the fry-up daily (from more than half the English population in the 1950s to fewer than 1 per cent today), it’s a dish that still straddles class divisions and remains a mainstay on B&B menus and in cafes worldwide.

Churros y Chocolate (Spain)

Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Mark Read

What is it?

Spanish churros are light, crispy doughnuts made with a simple batter mix that are quickly deepfried before being immediately dipped either in sugar or dunked satisfyingly in a cup of thick hot chocolate. They are standard fare at every Spanish fiesta as well as being an essential component of a traditional Spanish breakfast.

Origin

Churros have humble nomadic origins. They were the traditional morning food of goat- and sheepherders in Spain who, lacking any corner-bakers, whipped up a basic concoction of flour, water and oil to cook over an open fire. The churro is sonamed after the horns of the churro breed of sheep reared in the grasslands of Castile y León province. Chocolate (named after the Aztec word xocolatl) was brought from the New World back to Spain in the 16th century, where it was enjoyed as a drink long before it reached the rest of Europe.

French Toast (France)

Image courtesy: Flickr/jeffreyw/CC BY 2.0

What is it?

French toast is sliced bread soaked in a gently spiced egg-and-milk batter, fried until crisp and golden in melted butter and served hot with a sprinkling of sugar or all manner of sweet accompaniments, such as maple syrup, honey or even chocolate sauce.

Origin

Known variously as eggy bread, Roman bread, German toast, Spanish toast, and every other iteration in between, French toast is unlikely to have originated in France given the ubiquitousness of some form of egg-soaked bread in most cuisines. That said, it is possible that a classic French dish called pain perdu or ‘lost bread’ could have beenthe precursor to today’s modern version, involving as it does disguising stale pieces of bread with egg batter, fried butter and sweet toppings.

Blueberry Muffins (USA)

What is it?

With the addition of fruit, what might be dismissed as a rustic cupcake becomes a pivotal member of a healthy diet. Almost. Maybe not exactly. Purists might argue the point in grand cake/muffin debates, but it would be a fine distinction and, ultimately, who cares? This moist, fragrant bakery item is the go-to choice for the sweet-toothed bruncher.

Origin

Muffins can be sweet or savoury, and are known as a quick bread – that is, a bread made to rise by methods other than yeast. In the case of muffins, the raising agent is bicarb soda (baking soda). This form of muffin is an American invention, likely starting life in savoury form before the genius addition of fruit and sugar struck. There’s almost no limit to what ends up in a muffin, but it’s safe to say that adding chocolate pushes it into cake territory.

This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Brunches. Grab a copy here.

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