Is it healthy to eat rice at breakfast?

A Japanese breakfast - the healthiest in the world?

Photo credits: Author: Joi Ito | Flickr | License

It is considered that most important meal of the day: and in Japan this is taken seriously. Hardly any breakfast is so rich and varied. How do you start the day like a Japanese?

A little story of the first meal

What do you eat for breakfast in Japan - ramen or muesli, croissant or sushi? Anything is possible, but the traditional Japanese breakfast - 朝 御 飯 Asa Gohan - usually looks very different. Gohan can be used as a "Dish" and as "Rice" translate. And indeed: rice and miso soup, tofu and grilled fish are not uncommon on the breakfast table in Japan. How come?

A healthy breakfast has long been important to the Japanese and goes back to the time when the majority of all locals were farmers. Because the work in the fields was tough, the morning meal had to be particularly nutritious, tasty and light enough. Rice, with its many carbohydrates, is an obvious choice, and eggs, tofu, grilled salmon and even natto (fermented soybeans) are valuable sources of protein. Meat is rarely on the menu - if it does, then preferably fried pork or chicken. The healthy breakfast is complemented by vitamins from a warm miso soup and pickled vegetables. The Japanese like to drink green tea or soy milk from time to time - but it is not uncommon for the miso soup to serve as a drink. No wonder that Japanese food contributes to a long life expectancy.

The composition follows the varied principle of traditional Japanese cuisine, the Ichiju-sansai. This literally means: a soup and three dishes with carefully prepared, seasonal ingredients. This is what the Japanese breakfast consists of and provides a balanced diet with all the nutrients without too cramping. A perfect start to the day! One of these can best be experienced today in a traditional inn, a ryokan.


And what do you eat this morning?

But times have changed now. According to an online survey from 2015, almost half of the Japanese still eat traditional breakfast. A few even start their day with a hearty one Ramen noodle soup. However, around a quarter prefer bread instead. The Japanese bread with the name Shokupan However, it is very different from ours: white and fluffy, it is processed in thick slices and jam goes best with it.

Only very few dare to approach muesli or cornflakes, let alone sweet pastries or fruit. Still, this type of western breakfast is often seen in popular cafes:

Pancakes with lots of syrup and fruit, white coffee and fruit salad with yogurt and chia seeds. The typical hotel buffet usually offers both together - toast bread with jam right next to the controversial natto, which often surprises foreign guests.

14% of all Japanese, on the other hand, completely forego breakfast. Probably many of them fall into this category Salaryms - Office workers who barely have time to eat. Students get a cup of coffee and a cup of coffee on their way to university in the morning Onigiri-Rice balls, a sandwich or a Melon bun from the Konbini(Convenience store). Neither is optimal, considering that food in Japan has an important social component. But this is often postponed until the evening, for example when visiting Izakaya together or at the okonomiyaki party.

What does an Asian breakfast look like in other countries? South Korea also likes it hearty: Traditionally, the morning meal is not that different from the Japanese variant. However, there is more meat than fish here, and of course kimchi is a must. A Chinese breakfast can range from hearty dumplings to noodles and tofu pudding. Chinese is popular Dim Sum, small bites that are served with tea. Pho and other hearty soups top the breakfast menu in Vietnam, and in Thailand, Asian rice porridge is popular in the mornings. In Southeast Asia in particular, people like to drink different kinds of coffee in the morning.


Breakfast recipe: Japanese food culture for the home

Breakfast, like in Japan, is also very easy with the whole family.
These ingredients you need for a typical breakfast (1 portion each):

  • 100 g (Japanese) rice
  • A raw or boiled egg, or Japanese omelette - see here
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 300 ml dashi (Japanese fish broth) or vegetable broth
  • 1 spring onion
  • 60 g white or silk tofu
  • 1-2 nori seaweed sheets
  • Vegetables or fruit of your choice: pickled or fresh, for example radish, cucumber, aubergine, plum and cabbage
  • 150 g salmon fillet
  • soy sauce
  • 1 lemon
  • Some grated ginger
  • Natto to taste
  • Furikake spice mix as required
  • Green tea at will

It is best to start preparing breakfast the previous evening. Pre-cook the rice and marinate the salmon with a little soy sauce, lemon juice and ginger before putting it in the fridge for the night.

In the morning, the miso soup is prepared first. For this Japanese specialty, soak the algae in a little water and cut into small strips. Cut the spring onions into fine rings and the tofu into fine cubes. Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan, reduce the heat and add the miso paste. When it has dissolved, add the seaweed and tofu and simmer for a maximum of 5 minutes. Garnish with the spring onions at the end.

Now it's the turn of the fish. Let it drain a little and cook it in the pan or on the grill for a few minutes. Instead of fish, white tofu or natto are also wonderful sources of protein.

If you choose the raw egg, you can beat it the Japanese way directly on the rice and with a little soy sauce and with Furikake-Season to taste. That is the Tamago gohan-Variant. You can also use the rice in Ochazuke transform by soaking it with green tea and garnishing with a pickled plum. A pot of Japanese green tea goes very well with the food anyway.

To make breakfast authentic, pay attention to the Japanese table manners. The bowl of rice is usually placed on the left with the soup in the middle. At the top, the main course is the fish, and the "side dishes" are served around it. Of course, like almost all Japanese dishes, breakfast is eaten with chopsticks and you can slurp it loudly. Have a delicious start to the day!