I eat curry for breakfast. A lot. Whenever I can, in fact. There was a time when people used to think that was pretty weird, but nowadays there's an appreciation for the fact that maybe 1.3 billion people can't be wrong.
Curry for breakfast is a legitimate choice. Just the same as pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup, is a perfectly normal breakfast option. Just the same as nasi lemak, the Malaysian combination of rice with rendang, egg and anchovies, is an extremely good way to start the day. There's no good reason why breakfast should be confined to just bacon and eggs or pastry. Viva la difference.
That said, though, not every breakfast food in the world is as easily approachable, even in these days of global culinary enlightenment. There are still certain daily kick-starters that most travellers would have a little trouble digesting. If you can tackle these breakfasts of champions, then you truly are deserving of the title.
Don't let the name, which essentially means "hangover soup" fool you – this is not the stuff for curing a sore head. This is the stuff for tricking your mates into ordering and then laughing at them. Haejang-guk, beloved by hungover Koreans across the peninsula, is an otherwise hearty beef and cabbage soup that's spiced up with a little congealed ox blood. (In truth this is actually pretty delicious – the congealed blood just takes some getting used to.)
What's on the menu this morning? How about the fungus that grows on diseased corn? That's essentially what huitlacoche is, and in Mexico it's a delicacy. Chuck in an omelette; fry it up for a taco. Infected, mushroomy corn might sound pretty gross, but once you get over that notion you'll find this is actually a tasty way to kick off the day.
Vegemite on toast, Australia
Photo: Simon McCarthy
Call me unAustralian, but for most of the world a slathering of tarry black goo on toast really does sound like a disgusting way to begin the day, and I'm on their team. What's the fascination? Why do people love it so much? The fact you can now have your Vegemite artfully smeared on a wooden board at your local cafe does add to the appeal – but still, gross.
Century eggs, China
Congee itself is a step too far for some people – the idea that for breakfast you're having mooshy rice porridge that resembles something Oliver Twist would have had to beg for just doesn't appeal. However, when you add to that concoction a century egg, a hen's egg that's been preserved using ash, salt and quicklime, and has turned black and ammonic, it's probably going to be a flat "no". I don't mind century eggs, but I can see how they're not to everyone's taste.
There's almost not a single bad thing to eat in Japan. Almost. Because then there's natto, a beloved breakfast staple of an entire nation that most visitors just can't get their heads around. Natto is a dish of soy beans that have been fermented and have developed a strong smell and a sticky, slimy texture. They make bacon and eggs sound pretty great.
Most Germans like a good drink, which means they also like a good way to cure a hangover, and this is it: the rollmop, a slice of pickled gherkin wrapped in a fillet of pickled herring. Provided you can stomach oily, stinky fish, plus the brininess of a gherkin, first thing in the morning, then you should be all set.
Waffle breakfast sliders, USA
I'm going to put my hand up and admit I'm a fan of a McDonald's breakfast – a bacon and egg muffin and a hashbrown when you're feeling under the weather can be a thing of beauty. However, not all American fast food breakfasts are created equal. For proof, check out White Castle's "breakfast waffle sliders": a fried egg, a sausage pattie and some cheese, wedged between two Belgian waffles. Yeah, nup.
Full Irish, Ireland
You can see how this would be a challenge for first-timers. A full Irish breakfast usually includes fried eggs, mushrooms or beans, fried tomato, fried potatoes, bacon, sausage, black pudding (made from pork blood), and white pudding (made from pork fat). It's either a heart-starter or a heart-stopper, depending on your point of view. It's also delicious, so get on board.
Siri Paya, Pakistan
A "paya" is a popular dish throughout the subcontinent, a stew made using the paya, or feet, of an animal – usually a cow, a goat or a sheep. For the full nose to tail experience, however, you need to go to Lahore and try a siri paya, a stew which utilises both the feet and the head of the chosen animal. It's a breakfast favourite in that region, and you'll certainly know you're alive once you've eaten it.
What's the most challenging breakfast food you've eaten around the world? Any that you'll never eat again?
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