Food in China

Hotel Breakfasts in China – What to Expect

One of the best things after a late night arrival into an unknown city is to wake up and find an awesome breakfast awaiting. So, when travelling what can you expect in a Chinese hotel, and how is the breakfast, well, here’s a guide.

Most hotels I have stayed in offer breakfast, which is usually included in the room rate. If you have a really super cheap deal from ctrip, or the like, you may not get it included, in which case you may find it’s only 30RMB to add breakfast back in, unless your in a 4-5 star hotel where they may charge anything from 80 to 300RMB, in which case you could gorge yourself, or just go for wander a find something to eat for less than 20…

What do they offer for breakfast? Firstly, it really depends on what star level hotel you are staying in and to some degree, where. Nearly all the hotel breakfasts, that I have seen during my travels in China, are buffet style, so it’s actually a great chance to try some local dishes.


Lets start with a standard mid-range hotel that perhaps usually caters to local travelers. Here you’ll likely find a selection of popular everyday breakfast staples, such as:

Congee, or rice porridge (xīfan 稀饭 or Zhou 粥) which is basically just white rice and water boiled for a long time. Sounds simple, but once you start eating this one it will surely become a staple for you too. There’s many variants, such as adding beans and or millet, or even meat such as pork or fish, some will add extras such as peanuts, slithers of ginger, or pickled vegetables.


Youtiao (油条) and doujiang (豆漿) you’ll find this everywhere, in the hotel breakfast, at street stalls, supermarkets, everywhere.. Youtiao is basically a fried dough stick and doujiang is soy milk, so in a way, here is the local version of toast and milk. And it’s yum.


Baozi (包子) and Mantou (馒头) are two popular staples, basically simple yeast risen steam buns made from flour and water, salt and maybe egg. The mantou is plain where is the baozi can have any number of fillings such as meat or vegetables.


You are also likely to see fried rice (chaofan 炒饭), noodles (miantao 面条), sausage (xianchang 香肠), boiled eggs (zhu jidan 煮鸡蛋), vegetables (suchai 蔬菜), steamed yam (zheng tudao 蒸土豆) and dumplings (jiaozi 饺子).


As the hotel price goes up, so does the breakfast offering, with 4 star and above hotels offering a western style breakfast plus a broader range of local fare. The western style offerings usually begin with toast and butter, although, it’s rare to find fresh bread in lower price hotels unless your lucky, definitely toast it or pass. You may also find milk, hot milk, cereal, croissants, bacon, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, baked beans and so on. You may also find chefs cooking on demand and the noodles and eggs etc. are cooked fresh after you select. As the price of the hotel goes up, you should start to expect to see a pretty amazing breakfast buffet.


Some hotels will also offer Dian Xin (点心) particularly in Guangdong, although, for the full menu of Dian Xin it’s likely to be in a separate restaurant from the breakfast buffet and you’d need to pay extra.


The hotel doesn’t offer breakfast, what to do? Wander around and you’ll surely run into a street stall selling Baozi (包子), Mantou (馒头), Yóutiáo (油条), doujiang (豆漿) and the like for probably less that 10RMB. At worst there’s probably a McDonalds not too far away, KFC (who also sell youtiao and xifan) or local fast food such as Yonghe King or Kungfu.