You wake up in the morning, all drowsy and tired. Your eyes are barely open, and you yawn. While opening your mouth to yawn, your stomach gives your brain the signal: ”Mouth is wide open! BREAKFAST PLEASE!” You are hungry, and it is time for some breakfast. But what does one eat for breakfast in Japan?
おいしい パン は どこ? (Where is the delicious bread?)
To undestand what this blog post is about, let me start by explaining how a typical Dutch breakfast looks like. A typical Dutch breakfast consists of first of all bread. You can put anything on your bread ranging from, cheese, chocolate spread, peanut butter, meat (specifically made for bread), ”hagelslag” (chocolate sprinkles), jam, eggs, cheese spread, to butter, with a glass of milk, tea, orange juice, or coffee. But the basis of an excellent old-fashioned Dutch breakfast is bread. But you will not just pick any bread….. No, we have a hundred versions of bread: white, brown, sesame, whole grain, corn, wheat, sunflower seed, rye bread, spelt, and the list goes on. The bread comes in different forms and sizes.
The Dutch stores are filled with bread, as this is a traditional way to start your day in Holland. On the contrary, to our fellow southern Europeans, we also lunch with bread with the same ingredients mentioned above. In countries like Italy, you lunch with a warm dish such as pasta. However, in Holland, we really like bread. I like bread.
Furthermore, as a person with a Moroccan background, Moroccans also eat a lot of bread. A typical Moroccan breakfast looks as following: homemade bread with olive oil, olives (black and/or green), jam, La Vache Qui Rit, ”Smen” (fermented butter), chocolate spread, boiled eggs, and more. And as you can see, the basis is again bread.
The Dutch and Moroccan bread have something in common: They all have salt in them. You will not consciously taste the saltiness, but certainly not sweet. Of course, sweetbread is being sold, but it is called ‘sweetbread.’ I grew up with bread, and this is the only good breakfast I know of.
The Japanese bread and I tried quite some variants of bread here, which are very sweet. You can tell. I do not mean ‘candy-sweet’, but quite apparent sweet. Your eggs or cheese on sweetbread very much conflict in your mouth. It is odd and off, and I could not enjoy my daily breakfast. I still have not encountered any ‘salty’ bread. The vast majority of the bread in the store is white and squared. The bread comes in a plastic bag of 5 to 6 slices. The slices are about 2,5 centimetres thick. The prices range from about 100¥ to 200¥.
Furthermore, good quality of cheese can, in my honest opinion, only be found in Europe. Before I left, I was aware I would miss the Dutch cheese. Supermarkets here in Japan only have cheddar cheese. You know those flimsy, synthetic, orange coloured, square, ”cheese”. I would call this neither cheese nor cheddar. Just a thingy with taste.
As I was thinking about this issue, I was not aware of what was happening to me just yet. Having a regular breakfast in the morning started to frustrate as I was struggling what to eat every day due to not-so-tasty bread. You see, the keyword here is ”regular”. This is my ”regular” as a Dutch/Moroccan. In Japan, one does not necessarily start his breakfast with bread.
”OMG, I AM EXPERIENCING A KURUTURU SHOKU!” Yes, a culture shock through something innocent as making a choice what to eat for breakfast. I started to have an imaginary fight in my head. Being aware of this culture shock phenomenon, one can decrease the timeline of the 4 stages of culture shock. I started to notice my stupidity and put my endless quest for good bread aside.
Japan offers plenty of food, but you just need to figure out where to find them. If you go tunnel vision (seeking them delicious bread), you will not see the great opportunities this beautiful country offers. In fact, Japanese breakfast, as I found, is way healthier and more delicious than the ones I had in the Netherlands. A typical Japanese breakfast can consist of white rice, miso soup, eggs, (boiled, grilled) fish, tofu soup, sausages, yoghurt, natto (fermented beans), and tsukemono (pickled vegetables).
When you stay for an extended time in Japan, just try to be open-minded for all the food offered here and do not go on the hunt for the food you are used to like I did. You will not like every dish, but oh boy, the vast majority is delicious! I, for one, do not worry about having a cheese sandwich for breakfast anymore ;).
My breakfast menu this morning at Joyful restaurant (530¥) 😀
いただきます! (Bon Appétit!)