Spice up breakfast with an ethnic-inspired dish (recipes)


Try khao piak, a savory rice porridge, for breakfast. Photo courtesy of Ketmala’s Kitchen

By Emily Ryan, The Mercury

Like the idea of coconut milk pancakes, Asian-flavored syrups and chorizo scrambled eggs? Ethnic-inspired breakfasts are “hot,” according to the National Restaurant Association. So spice things up with recipes from around the world.

“I pride myself in having the curiosity to look into all cuisines, not just one,” said chef Stirling Sowerby of The Flying Deutschman food truck. “I cook German my whole life. I have to have a little fun.”


Flying Deutschman food truck, daily specials transport diners around the world. Photo by Emily Ryan

When catering breakfast, he not only offers German favorites, but also Italian, English and Mexican flavors like a frittata with peppers and cilantro.

“In my youth, cilantro was not even on the menu in Germany. I hated it when I came here, and 10 years later, I love it,” recalled Sowerby, whose typical breakfast is “a glass of orange juice, half a grapefruit, cereal with berries, yogurt, two slices of bread and a soft-boiled egg.”

“You go to a restaurant in Germany for breakfast, you get fresh-baked rolls,” he added. “That is a must.”

Breakfast itself is a must for chef Olga Sorzano, who’s from Siberia and repeated this Russian saying: “Eat your breakfast yourself. Share your lunch with your friends. And give your dinner to your enemy.”

“Breakfast is extremely, extremely important,” stressed the founder of Baba’s Brew, an artisanal kombucha company in West Chester. “You started your day right with the proper nutrition.”

Her family’s cottage cheese breakfast casserole “is sort of like a perfect marriage between cheesecake and sponge cake,” she described. “It is rich and airy at the same time. Slightly sweet, more like vanilla yogurt than dessert.”

Serve it with berries in the summer and stewed apples in fall.

“Usually my mom would drizzle it with sour cream or honey,” Sorzano said. “Sour cream down plays the sweetness and makes it a more savory dish.”

For something strictly savory, try khao piak.

“Growing up in Laos to a Chinese mother and a Laotian father, my childhood breakfast was the Lao khao piak or Chinese jook, aka congee or rice porridge,” explained chef Ketmala Phoumalavong of Ketmala’s Kitchen in West Chester.

It “was a medley of both world traditions and the ultimate comfort food for a young 7-year-old girl.”

Instead of white rice, “you can easily use a mixture of white and brown rice and whole grains such as barley and bulgur, or millet and quinoa for a gluten-free option,” suggested the personal chef and culinary instructor.

Then come the shiitake mushrooms, fresh ginger, cilantro, sprouts, scallions, bok choy or other greens.

“It might take you a little while to get your mind around to eat khao piak for breakfast because rice soup might sound unappetizing at first to the Western sensibilities,” Phoumalavong admitted, “however, it’s worth a try, allowing your taste buds to travel far away to a new adventure!”

Jasmine Rice Khao Piak or Congee

Congee is a nutritious, easy-to-digest meal, commonly eaten as breakfast throughout Asia and especially suited to the cooler months.

Serves 4


1 tablespoon cold-pressed virgin coconut oil (you could use the unscented coconut oil if you do not like the hint of coconut flavor)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

1 cup long-grain jasmine rice or mixture of whole grains, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

8 cups filtered water* or vegetable broth (if using water you might want to add in a low-sodium vegetable stock cube for extra flavor)

Handful shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, optional

Handful bok choy (or any greens), cleaned and sliced, optional

1 teaspoon sea salt or more to taste

Optional garnishes:

Fresh herbs of choice: cilantro, scallion, Thai basil, etc.

Fresh sprouts

Fresh or fried shallots

Shredded fresh ginger

Chili oil, sriracha or sesame oil

Low-sodium soy sauce, Braggs or tamari for gluten-free option

Toasted sesame seeds

Lemon or lime


Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and fry until soft and translucent on medium-low. Add the grated ginger and stir. Add the rice or grains, vegetable broth or water and stock cube if using, salt to taste and stir well. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shiitake mushrooms if using, stir and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the baby bok choy if using, stir and continue to cook for about another 10 minutes or more, until the grains are soft and beginning to break apart. If you use brown rice or whole grains, make sure to adjust the cooking time as per the instructions from the manufacturer. The porridge is done when the consistency is almost smooth. Season to taste with additional salt if you wish. Serve warm, ladle porridge into bowls and top with a combination of your favorite garnishes. I like mine with fresh cilantro, scallion, ginger, sprouts, chili oil and lime juice. You cannot go wrong here, everyone can adjust to their liking. Enjoy!


Cottage Cheese Breakfast Casserole

Yields 4 to 6 servings


1 pound cottage cheese

3 egg yolks

5 tablespoons farina (cream of wheat)

3 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

3 eggs whites


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter 8-by-11-inch baking dish. Set aside. In the large bowl, combine all the ingredients, except the egg whites, together. Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated. In the separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold in with the cottage cheese mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly with the spatula. Bake 30 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Serve with sour cream, honey and berries. Na Zdorovie!


Breakfast Frittata

Ingredients needed

12 eggs

½ cup heavy cream (you can use milk or half-and-half as well)

Ingredients that can be changed

1 small diced onion

1 leek, cut in half lengthwise then cut in strips

4 slices of bacon, cut in small pieces

1 or 2 cooked potatoes (preferably gold potatoes), cut in small dice

About ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro

½ of a red bell pepper, cut in small dice

1 cup of shredded cheese (I prefer a sharp cheddar cheese, but you can use really any cheese that melts nicely)


Frittata is usually a leftover dish. That’s why you have ingredients that can be changed. You can pretty much throw anything in there that’s in your fridge; only things mandatory are the eggs and some cream.

Whisk eggs and cream together and set aside. Add a little oil into a heavy skillet or pan (cast iron works best). On high heat, sauté your onions, leeks and bacon bits. Once the onions turn glazey, add your potatoes, bell peppers and cilantro. Cook for 1 more minute; season with salt and pepper. Add your egg mixture into the pan and sprinkle your cheese on top. Let it sit on the heat for 20 or 30 seconds (to settle the egg at the bottom), then pop it into a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes until firm and a nice golden brown color is achieved.


2 replies »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s