Incredible Breakfast Trends

Sun Shines On Asian Breakfasts

Census trends might show why Asian cuisines are appearing on more non-Asian restaurant menus: the U.S Asian population is by far our fastest growing ethnic segment – up 76 percent between 2000 and 2015 – with nearly two-thirds being foreign-born.

But that’s only the beginning. In the 2017 edition of its “What’s Hot” survey, the National Restaurant Association found that out of 119 types of foods, ethnic-inspired breakfast items (ranked in the top 20 since 2011) had jumped up into the #6 spot. Examples given included Asian-flavored syrups and coconut milk pancakes. Ethnic condiments came in at #22 with examples of sriracha, sambal and gochujang.

One more confirmation of Asian cuisine rising: When the Chicago Tribune asked 13 Chicago chefs what one item they considered their “secret-weapon ingredient,” five cited Asian sauces. Fish sauce topped the list with three enthusiasts. As Cosmo Goss of The Publican said, “Adding fish sauce is like adding drops of flavor lasers. It makes everything taste better.”

Right in step, food manufacturers have ramped up production of Asian-inspired breakfast foods, many of which are eaten throughout the day in their home countries. Examples include Weight Watchers Smart Ones Vegetable Fried Rice, made with scrambled eggs, red bell peppers, carrots, peas, and onions; and Thai Kitchen Asian Creations Chicken Pad Thai with vegetables and eggs in tangy sauce and rice noodles. One imported item is Ayam’s Kaya Coconut Spread, the sweet and creamy Malaysian coconut milk and egg jam. Kaya is the signature ingredient in Kaya toast, which is traditionally dipped into soft boiled eggs.

There are scores of recognized Asian cuisines. Beside the 30 within China alone, southeastern Asians have brought with them regional variations of cuisines including Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino and Malaysian. Hoisin and fish sauces, mango, peanuts, cilantro, ginger, garlic, basil and lime are just some of the flavors rising in breakfast sightings. Increasingly menued dishes:

  • Ramen (Japan) ‒ noodles in soy or miso flavored broth, usually topped with chicken or pork, seaweed, green onion, and egg, a must for virtually every ramen bowl
  • Bibimbap (Korea) ‒ rice topped with seasoned vegetables, soy sauce, gochujang or fermented soybean paste, fried egg and sliced meat
  • Congee (China) ‒ sweet or savory thin porridge with meat, vegetables and often, eggs
  • Bánh Mì (Vietnam) ‒ baguette filled with meats, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and white radishes and often, a fried egg (especially in the growing number of a.m. bánh mìs)

There are three basic ways operators menu these cuisines on non-Asian menus: flavors suggesting a cuisine’s essence; fusion versions of authentic dishes; or actual authentic dishes.

Cuisine’s Essence

  • Mount Fuji: poached eggs, Asian veggies, grits (Shopsin’s, NYC)
  • Bang Bang Shrimp® Eggs Benedict: English muffin, crispy shrimp, poached eggs, green onions, spicy Hollandaise (Bonefish Grill, Nationwide)
  • Kaya Toast: coconut jam, egg cloud for dipping (ChoLon, Denver)

Fusion Versions

  • Bi Bim Bop Breakfast Bowl: cauliflower​ “rice” with guanciale, pickled veggies, sunny side eggs (Little Goat Diner, Chicago)
  • Okonomiyaki: Japanese pancake, pastrami, sauerkraut, fried egg (Shalom Japan, Brooklyn)
  • Korean Fried Chicken: short grain rice, house kimchi, eggs two ways (Tasty n Aldr, Portland, OR)


Authentic Dishes

  • Chashu Pork Belly Ramen (Japan): tonkatsu broth, fresh Tokyo wavy noodles, bean sprouts, scallions, poached egg, nori furikake (TenPehn, Washington, D.C.)
  • Spamsilog (Philippines): Spam, garlic fried rice, sunny side egg, cucumber and cherry tomato relish (Jeepney Filipino Gastropub, NYC)
  • Mushroom Congee (China): Shiitake mushrooms, ginger, soft-boiled egg, housemade devil doughnut (Ba Bar, Seattle)
  • Bánh Mì Bowl (Vietnam): braised pork belly, nuoc cham potatoes, pickled daikon & carrots, jalapeños, cilantro, sunny side up egg (Nighthawk Breakfast Bar, Venice, Calif.)
  • Five years ago bibimbap and silog weren’t even part of mainstream food discussions, but kimchi is now served in omelets and on burgers, while sriracha is found next to ketchup on dinner tables. McDonald’s offers a Signature Sriracha sandwich line and began testing a Sriracha Big Mac in 2016.

    In just a few years, items that only dared to be vaguely Asian-inspired have evolved toward authenticity and are menued in near-original form on non-Asian menus.

    There’s not much that Americans find foreign about Asian food these days. Menu and product developers need to stay ahead of that ever-changing curve.


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