There was a time when menuing a breakfast burrito was pushing the envelope. That seems almost quaint now, and signals how quickly innovation moves in the breakfast space.
Looking beyond our borders for inspiration makes a lot of sense—global flavors can play seamlessly in the morning hours. As with most R&D, it’s about searching out the next craveable combination, the next perfect balance between home and away.
The burrito led the way to breakfast tacos, then huevos rancheros and chilaquiles, where adaptation is stirring up even bigger opportunity with these flavor-forward dishes.
Indian mash-ups present opportunity, too, with dosas acting as carriers for breakfast favorites like egg, sausage and bacon.
And savory porridges, comforting ramen dishes and okonomiyaki all warm consumers to Asian flavors in the morning.
Jianbing – a New Breakfast Trend
One of the most craveable—and malleable—items is finding its way from China. The jianbing, or bing for short, is a breakfast street food that combines savory, sweet, crunchy and soft in a crêpe made with mung bean, rice and wheat flour, then coated with egg, scallion and sesame. Hoisin, chile paste and crushed wonton often round out the profile. The bing is rolled and then served, hot off the griddle.
Sometimes nicknamed the “Beijing burrito,” the jianbing is being adapted by operators here in the United States. Mr Bing, with two storefronts and one food cart in New York, offers the traditional version, along with a number of menu items that include more fillings, like a BBQ Pork Bing with Cantonese-style roast pork.
On its breakfast menu, guests can choose from four bings, including a Nutella Bing, along with a Maple Bacon, Egg & Cheese Bing.
The West Coast is feeling the jianbing vibe too, with concepts like Bing Mi in Portland, Ore., offering a version filled with scrambled egg, black bean paste, chile sauce, pickled vegetables, green onion and cilantro.
Shaksuka Opens Up
Shakshuka, that Middle Eastern baked eggs dish, is catching fire on menus. Translation onto American menus takes liberties with the spiced tomato sauce and the toppings, bending the comfort-food posture to fit a brand’s personality.
Shakshuka’s advance on menus signals an embrace of Middle Eastern flavors at breakfast. That opens the door to a lot of discovery, showcasing the bold, rich flavors of this region.
Botanica Restaurant, an all-day modern café in Los Angeles, taps into the potential with its signature breakfast offering of Turkish Eggs: poached farm eggs, Aleppo-Urfa butter, garlicky yogurt, charred scallions, lemony salad and cornmeal focaccia.
On the Menu: Eggs on the Edge
Global flavor discovery continues to thrill many diners. Leveraging those “new” flavors at breakfast promises menu differentiation. Some even offer a first-to-market sensibility, with a soft cushioning of familiarity through the almighty breakfast staple: the egg.
- Hangover Ramen: Pork belly, soft-boiled shoyu egg, duck confit, mushrooms, sesame and lots of condiments
- Railway Masala Omelet: Indian-style omelette with onions, tomato, cilantro, turmeric and Serrano chile, served with “pao” bun
—Badmaash, Los Angeles
- Kuku: Persian-style frittata with spinach, barberries, white beans, greens, yogurt
—Kismet, Los Angeles
- Mumbai Migas: Cilantro eggs, tortilla strips, jalapeño, tomato, dried lime
—Whip In, Austin, Texas
- Breakfast Risotto with smoked-cherry bacon, shiitake mushrooms, sunny-side egg, truffle oil
—Mable’s Table, Chicago
Hong Kong Waffles
Hong Kong waffles, also known as bubble waffles or egg waffles, are soft and chewy in the middle with crisp, lacy edges, made from a sweet, eggy batter. The mold used for them gives them that famous bubbled look, and in Hong Kong, these waffles serve up a sweet street snack. Eaten on their own or filled, they offer potential for the sweet side of breakfast menus.
At Area Four, a modern café in Cambridge, Mass., the brunch menu features the Hong Kong Waffle: light and fluffy Hong Kong-style waffles wrapped around a scoop of pistachio ice cream and garnished with blackberry sauce and pistachios.
Wonder Waffle in Montclair, N.J., serves up the Hong Kong specialty. Its breakfast offering gives the bubble waffle a savory turn, filling it with bacon, egg and cheese.
Two trends are converging into one big breakfast opportunity. First, the appetite for modern bowl builds keeps getting bigger, with breakfast consumers looking here for satiety, comfort and flavor interest. Second, the emergence of global fried rice dishes, with offerings like Kimchi Fried Rice at République in Los Angeles, or Crispy Pearl Rice at The Little Beet Table in Chicago and New York.
Chefs are now featuring global fried rice in breakfast bowls. At Dirty Habit, a globally inspired New American restaurant in Washington, D.C., Korean-born chef Kyoo Eom serves an Arroz Frito on his brunch menu, starring jasmine rice, shiitake mushroom, Spanish chorizo, soy sauce, and scrambled eggs.
“This dish is inspired by the flavors of South America. There are Asian influences in many South American cuisines,” says Eom. “The chorizo gives it a nice, spicy flavor that is balanced by earthiness and a burst of umami from the shiitake mushrooms.”
He also serves a brunch burrito on the menu with scrambled eggs, chorizo, mushroom, spinach and salsa verde. “South American flavors work very well during the breakfast and brunch meal periods,” he says.
Mexico’s famous comfort food, chilaquiles, is a breakfast dish of fried corn tortilla strips simmered in salsa and often topped with eggs, beans and cheese. Chefs inject personality, maybe adding avocado, or using smoked chiles in the salsa—the possibilities for Latin-themed riffs are plentiful.
Take, for example, the Chilaquiles Negros de Pollo y Huevo at Nopalito in San Francisco: tortilla chips, a sauce of pasilla and chipotle chiles, tomatoes, chicken, fried egg, red onion, crema and queso fresco, served hot in a cazuela with crema and queso fresco and a garnish of scallions.
Today, chefs are also moving chilaquiles into the global playing field, leveraging its promise of comfort and flavor, then surprising guests with creative combinations.
At Habitat by Jose Mendin, a modern Spanish restaurant in Miami Beach, Fla., a chilaquiles dish features Korean pulled pork and kimchi, along with a black bean purée, charred tomatillo salsa verde, tortilla chips and a fried egg.
“The chips are tossed in a vibrant green tomatillo sauce, making them moist yet crunchy,” says Mendin, executive chef/owner. “They are then smothered with Korean-style pulled pork that’s been marinated in a kimchi base with garlic and soy, providing guests with a burst of flavor. We finish them off with a sunny-side-up egg in true breakfast fashion. Because chilaquiles is essentially a dish featuring elevated chips, it’s a great option for snacking, too.”
Even further afield, Old Monk, a contemporary Indian restaurant in New York, demonstrates how chilaquiles translates into different cultures. Described as “Indian chilaquiles,” the brunch menu’s Kuttu Parotta combines South Indian-style scrambled eggs, pieces of layered whole wheat bread with onion, green chiles, curry leaves and special sauce.
On The Menu: Latin Lovers
Consumers love Mexican flavors, as proven by the popularity of breakfast burritos and tacos, and the growing familiarity with chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. What’s next? Here are a few dishes that caught our eye as examples of how the opportunity is evolving.
- Northwest Migas: Tex-Mex scramble, tortilla chips, salsa rojo
— Tasty n Alder, Portland, Ore.
- Pork Shoulder Tostada with charred tomatillos, queso panela, sunny eggs
—Beast + Bottle, Denver, Colo.
- Chicharrones Plate: Two eggs any style with fried pork skins cooked in salsa, served with beans, potatoes and two tortillas
— Joe’s Bakery, Austin, Texas
- Pozole Verde: Chicken, hominy, cabbage, radish, oregano
— Arguello, San Francisco