Starting the day right with hearty meals

Every night before going to sleep, three things run through Vijaya Priya's mind - how the day went, how she could have improved it, and what to have for breakfast the next morning. Sometimes, she says, breakfast is the only thing that occupies her mind the entire night.

"It is my favourite meal of the day and the mere thought of breakfast gets me through the night. I get so excited knowing that a plate of nasi lemak or mee goreng is waiting for me somewhere," said Vijaya, 32.

Breakfast has always been an important meal to Vijaya, whose mother believes that one should always start the day with enough energy for the body and brain - and she holds true to the advice.

"She always said that without breakfast, you are running on empty, and that's like trying to start the car without petrol."

So even on her busiest days, Vijaya manages to have breakfast, be it a simple set of kaya and butter toast, soft-boiled eggs and a cup of hot Milo. Sometimes, she makes the breakfast at home, but more often, she enjoys it at a neighbourhood kopitiam before heading to work.

Nasi lemak is one of Malaysia’s favourite breakfasts.

But come weekend, the menu changes for Vijaya and her family. Hot thosai from the kitchen, wanton mee from a hawker stall, nasi lemak bungkus from a mamak restaurant or cereal from a box. Breakfast in Vijaya's household is always a colourful affair that could rival an organised potluck.

Each of Vijaya's family members wants different things for breakfast, so getting food from one source is not an option.

The family comes together for breakfast with food coming from outside. "As a child, I went on breakfast hunts with my mother during her weekly market rounds. We would stop at stalls to buy curry mee for father, nasi lemak for grandma and char kway teow for big sister - they always had the same dishes, so it was easy to remember their orders. We would get home and have breakfast as a family, and that's one of my best childhood memories."

Sometimes, Vijaya takes her family out for breakfast during weekends. On such outings, it has become a habit to try a different eatery each time. They often go to newly- opened cafes and restaurants to try their breakfast menu - usually pancakes, waffles or American breakfast sets. However, they are also content to visit familiar hawker stalls for the usual local fares like yau char kway, chee cheong fun, asam laksa, roti canai and more.

"So to me, breakfast on weekends tastes better if it comes from or is eaten outside. Otherwise, it is just another boring meal made in your own kitchen," said Vijaya with a laugh.

The older generation may favour a breakfast of thosai.

Vijaya's mother begs to differ. Suseela Aiyavu believes that breakfast is best prepared at home, so, it is not unusual to see her in the kitchen making thosai, idli, uppuma, dhal curry and a variety of chutneys for … herself.

"Sometimes, I end up being the only person enjoying the breakfast I make. My children prefer food from outside, but that is not how I was raised. My mother taught me how to make these Indian dishes and they are perfect for breakfast. That's what I enjoyed eating growing up and still do now. I do appreciate nasi lemak and roti canai but I feel that nothing beats homecooked breakfast.

"I cannot believe that there are people queuing up at restaurants to buy thosai and idli and yet, my own family won't eat it for breakfast when I make them for free!" Suseela, 60, joked.

To add to the variety, Suseela's two grandchildren prefer breakfast food that comes with free toys. "They are content with just eating milk-soaked cereals for breakfast every day. Sometimes, I have to cajole them to have bread and Milo instead. It is difficult to get my entire family to agree on breakfast, but I shouldn't complain because at least, they are eating breakfast," said Suseela.

The greasy char kway teow is also loved across the board.

Grandma is right. Breakfast provides much-needed fuel for our bodies after an overnight fast and it is best that the meal is eaten within two hours of waking. Apart from energy, it's a good idea to make sure that breakfast also provides the essential nutrients: calcium, iron, vitamin B as well as protein and fibre. Studies have shown that if these nutrients are missed at breakfast, they are less likely to be compensated later in the day.

"We do try to keep it healthy and have lots of fruits, oats and juices for breakfast," said Vijaya. "But of course, I would rather have a good ol' plate of char kway teow or nasi lemak for breakfast any day," she said.

Malaysia Breakfast Day is celebrated on April 12 in Ipoh, Perak, April 26 in Kuching, Sarawak and May 10 in Putrajaya.