Chinese breakfast in Chinatown in Milan
Breakfast is now considered by everyone the most important meal of the day, it seems to be a fact, but few populations take it as seriously as the Chinese.
Extremely different from the western one, the Chinese breakfast boasts a series of peculiarities and a range of preparations that make it truly unique. Although it varies depending on the region in which you are located, in China breakfast is generally eaten hot (or rather, piping hot), mainly salty, greasy, in a hurry and everywhere very cheap.
The frenetic pace of work in fact obliges to consume breakfast on the street counting it in fact in the street-food: it is customary to see people from the early hours of the morning eat breakfast standing or walking while checking their smartphone.
In Chinatown in Milan it is possible to experience the Chinese breakfast. Behind the main street there are in fact takeaways and restaurants that offer the specialties of the first meal of the day.
Visiting these realities is really like being in China or being catapulted into the Paolo Sarpi of many years ago: a decidedly different neighborhood, rustic and almost not frequented by Westerners, if not obviously by residents. A Chinatown where practically no one spoke Italian, the restaurants were not frequented by Italians and had nothing as modern and attractive as those we are used to today. These are the characteristics that you will find in these places that I will describe here!
Together with Francesca from A Milano puoi I went on a tour that allowed me to tell you about the main and traditional places and specialties of this so important meal.
Beijing Traditional Roll
Beijing Traditional Roll presents a showcase with a counter overlooking the street, in full street-food style: here you can taste the jianbing, a kind of salty crepe typical of Beijing (the capital of China). The thin pastry (mainly prepared with wheat flour and eggs) is stuffed with different ingredients that can vary: usually meat, spicy or slightly sweet sauce, coriander, pickles and spring onions are added.
In short, a perfect snack to eat even while walking.
After the sumptuous opening in Via Paolo Sarpi 25, Bokok has recently opened a small well-kept place at the beginning of the street - you will notice the specialties through the glass door. Order before you sit down, you will then be served at the table.
Here I tried a special baozi stuffed with black sesame, house xiaolongbao (here they have a more spongy consistency, similar to that of steamed bao) served with vinegared soy sauce and the inevitable hot soy milk (you can choose it natural or with the addition of sugar).
📍 Via Paolo Sarpi, Milan 💰 $
A small corner where you can have a rich Chinese breakfast inside the Iper Hu in the center of Paolo Sarpi. You will immediately notice from the window that JunTai is just specialized in this meal, in fact here you can find many specialties to be consumed on site or to take away. The staff is very nice and helpful, if you are not part of the Chinese community the lady at the counter will help you choose what you prefer.
Among the specialties tried: millet porridge (very mild), eight treasures porridge (with glutinous rice, black rice, azuki beans, mung beans), jian dui (fried mochi and sesame balls stuffed with azuki), cong you bing (fried focaccia with fermented vegetables).
Mai is a Chinese rotisserie with seating and a huge variety of dishes for you to try. The clientele is totally Chinese, as are the staff of course, but no one will make you feel out of place, indeed seeing Italians asking to try breakfast will arouse a lot of curiosity among those present.
The proposals on the card are really numerous: here you can have lunch or dinner, as well as having the first meal of the day. So if you want to try as many preparations as possible then I recommend you go with friends.
I had the opportunity to try the congee: it is the typical rice porridge eaten for breakfast, generally "white" but here enriched, if you wish, with eggs and pork. Then there are xiaolongbao, steamed dumplings stuffed with pork and hot broth typical of the Jiangnan region. The whole was accompanied by warm soy milk sweetened with chunks of red beans.
This is another rotisserie restaurant where you can enjoy a full Chinese breakfast. Here too the menu is really wide but you will have no problems juggling even if you don't speak Chinese: the girl who takes care of the dining room speaks perfectly Italian, so don't worry. Even at Mare d'Oro you can stop and take a seat to eat comfortably in a spartan and kitsch place.
Here you can enjoy zongzi, triangular-shaped "meatballs" of glutinous rice with a sweet (red bean paste) or salty (spiced pork) filling wrapped in bamboo leaves.
There are jian dui, spheres covered with sesame and fried (with a consistency similar to Japanese mochi), cong you bing, a sort of salty pancake filled with pork and fermented vegetables, mini baozi stuffed with steamed pork and the inevitable giant bowl of boiling sweetened soy milk.
📍 Via Morazzone 10, Milan 💰 $
MU paolo sarpi (CLOSED)
MU paolo sarpi is the most recent (in terms of opening) and modern place to stop and enjoy dim sum, snacks consumed with hot tea - a real ritual typical of Canton and southern China.
Among the various dim sum (including har gau and shao mai) and san ji bao (mini plated baozi typical of Shanghai and perfect as a quick snack), for breakfast I indicate xiaolongbao stuffed with pork and hot broth and boiled beef dumplings (shuijiao).
If you want to start gradually getting closer to the Chinese breakfast culture (and Canton gastronomy in general) then this is probably the place for you.
📍 Via Paolo Sarpi 2, Milan 💰 $$
This restaurant serves a particularly popular Chinese breakfast, as everything is snapped up within hours of opening! The restaurant is spread over two rooms, unless you show up at peak meal times you will find a seat.
Here I tasted the mantou, a bread without filling prepared with wheat flour, water, yeast and steamed, the grilled baozi stuffed with pickled vegetables, tofu and mung beans and finally the tofu brain (in a sweet version, but it is possible try it also spicy), which is an incredibly soft and velvety tofu soup.
Rosticceria Bolin is a cross-section of the old Chinatown where you will find a great take-away offer. The place is decidedly rustic, practically no one speaks Italian and they will hardly agree to let you sit down to taste the chosen dishes. But don't despair: just take a take away.
Among the specialties proposed I tried youtiao, an elongated dough fried in oil that is commonly consumed while sipping boiling sweetened soy milk. Followed by steamed baozi with pork, egg in tea (a boiled egg with a marbled appearance and a spicy taste) and, finally, the Chinese "arancini", made with gluten rice and stuffed with frayed meat with ginger.
Trattoria Wenzhou is another simple and decidedly rustic place with a great choice for enjoying Chinese breakfast. Be careful because even here the specialties are immediately sold out. Seats are scarce, which is why most customers opt for take-out.
The staff speaks little Italian but is very kind and helpful, so don't be afraid and indicate the specialties you want to order in the window.
Here I enjoyed the baozi stuffed with pickled vegetables, tofu and meat (one steamed and one grilled).
📍 Via Bramante 20, Milan 💰 $