This snack from China’s “breakfast capital” packs flavor in many layers

In the central Chinese city of Wuhan, it’s said that residents can eat a different breakfast every day for at least a month.

This is an understatement: A 1984 book called Wuhan Snacks lists 190 dishes that have almost all been served as breakfast. Indeed, before its name became inextricably linked with the 2019 coronavirus outbreak, the Hubei provincial capital was chiefly renowned for being China’s “breakfast capital.”

In Wuhan, having breakfast is called “过早 (guòzǎo),” a grammatical formation similar to “过节 (guòjié, celebrating festivals).” The phrase was first recorded in poet Ye Tiaoyuan’s anthology The Hankou Zhuzhi Poems    (《汉口竹枝词》) in 1850: “Aping the rich families, commoner women rise from their beds in the morning. Before combing their hair, they eat breakfast, swallowing glutinous rice cakes and fried dumplings. (小家妇女学豪门,睡到晨时醒梦魂;且慢梳头先过早,糍粑油饺一齐吞。)

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author Tan Yunfei (谭云飞)

Tan Yunfei is the editorial director of The World of Chinese. She reports on Chinese language, food, traditions, and society. Having grown up in a rural community and mainly lived in the cities since college, she tries to explore and better understand China's evolving rural and urban life with all readers.

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