Chawanmushi, Haggis, Filmjölk: It's What's for Breakfast Around the World

By: Jeremy Glass  | 

strange breakfast foods
Congee is a rice porridge eaten with chicken, fish or a century egg, served throughout Asia and India. South China Morning Post/Getty Images

Most of us are accustomed to the usual range of comfortable, delicious, beige breakfast foods that can be found at any diner almost anywhere in the world. Pancakes, waffles, eggs and coffee — the standards. It's not too often you find dishes like boiled lamb, congealed blood pudding and foot soup at your local IHOP. Here are 10 breakfast foods you may not have heard of that people are happily rolling out of bed and noshing on all over the world.

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1. Congee (China)

Beloved in China, congee is a porridge that's boiled for an extended amount of time until it reaches a gooey consistency. Eaten with chicken, fish or a century egg (chicken or duck eggs aged for months in a mixture of salt and ash), congee is eaten throughout Asia and India.

2. Chanasan Makh (Mongolia)

Lamb? For breakfast? Heck yeah. Ubiquitous amongst Mongolian nomads, Chanasan Makh is a simple cut of meat (often mutton) boiled in salt water served with either vegetables or ketchup. Traditionally eaten with your hands, Chanasan Makh is considered a "mandatory breakfast" for travelers aiming to build up their strength before departing on a journey.

3. Black Pudding (United Kingdom)

An integral part of the full English breakfast, black pudding sounds a bit more harmless than the reality of this U.K. breakfast food. It's pig blood along with oatmeal, barley, oat groats, herbs and fat, packed into a sausage casing and grilled to perfection.

strange breakfast foods
Freshly-made traditional black pudding at a butcher shop in Lancashire, England. Black pudding is a savory sausage made from animal blood, oatmeal, onions, fat, barley and spices.
Colin McPherson/Corbis/Getty Images

4. Filmjölk (Sweden)

Leave it to the Nordic countries to find an innovative new way to consume dairy. Popular in Sweden, this fermented milk product is made by allowing bacteria to break down the lactic acid in yogurt at room temperature, procuring a sweeter, more buttery flavor. Swedes often pair filmjölk with an assortment of cereals, crispy bread and fruit.

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5. Menudo (Mexico)

Nope, it isn't the most excellent Puerto Rican boy band (starring a young Ricky Martin) but rather a Mexican American comfort soup made with tripe (the lining of a ruminant's stomach). Popularized by migrant workers in cities like San Antonio and Los Angeles, menudo slowly morphed into a hair of the dog breakfast food for those needing a little extra kick of spice in the morning.

strange breakfast foods
Menudo is a spicy soup made with tripe — perfect for a liitle kick in the morning.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

6. Devilled Kidneys (England)

Popular in the United Kingdom, this popular breakfast meat is made by dredging lambs' kidneys in flour, tomato paste, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, and simmering them in a pan. Typically eaten on toast with butter and parsley, this Victorian breakfast gained momentum in the 19th century and is still eaten with vigor today.

7. Huitlacoche (Mexico)

Technically, those who eat this delicious Mexican breakfast are consuming corn that's been infected by a pathogenic fungus called Ustilago maydi. Also known as "corn mushroom" or "corn smut", the fungus actually breaks down the kernels in corn and leaves in its path a smokey, earthy flavor similar to mushrooms. Sometimes sold for more money than corn unaffected by the plant disease, huitlacoche can be enjoyed in stews, soups, corn patties or tamales.

strange breakfast foods
Huitlacoche is a black mushroom that grows on corn and can be eaten by itself or spooned into tortillas and served as a quesadilla de huitlacoche.
OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images

8. Haggis (Scotland)

There's nothing too out-of-the-ordinary about eating oatmeal for breakfast. It's when that oatmeal is mixed with minced sheep heart, liver and lungs, onions, suet, spices and stuffed in a sheep's stomach casing that things get a little exciting. Eaten for hundreds of years by brave Scots, some of the first mentions of haggis go back to a 15th-century English cookbook.

9. Chawanmushi (Japan)

Think of chawanmushi as a savory breakfast custard; a silky smooth soup made from egg, soy sauce and mirin. Typically topped with mushrooms, shrimp, and a mixture of cured white fish and starch called kamaboko, chawanmushi is one of the few dishes in Japan eaten solely with a spoon as opposed to chopsticks.

strange breakfast foods
A savory bowl of chawanmushi will start the day off right in Japan and other parts of Asia.
South China Morning Post/Getty Images

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10. Paya (India)

You'd have a hard time finding anything made with the principal ingredients of paya at any local greasy spoon diner. Translating to "legs" in Hindi, paya is composed of trotters — the hooves of cow, goat, buffalo and sheep. Served in a soup base of sauteed onions and garlic, plus spices, paya is typically set to boil the night before and served during cold winter months along with naan bread.

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