Breakfast epiphanies

The eggs can't be over easy and the sausages need plenty of sizzle in thenever-ending hunt for Bangkok's best full English

Any Britons who visited Thailand in the previous millennium will remember their hosts' sacrilegious attempts to make the full English breakfast -- rubber sausages, fatty bacon, uncooked eggs and toast that had barely made nodding acquaintance with a grill.

Even worse, there was often an unwanted small salad (yes, salad) on the edge of the plate, usually limp lettuce topped with unappetising tomato, cucumber and sickeningly sweet mayonnaise or salad cream. This was a cultural gaffe on a par with serving pork chops at a Jewish wedding.

There is a place for salad (preferably the bin) but it should not be allowed anywhere near a full English for fear of contaminating the fatty goodness that all true Brits crave, especially when abroad in a strange land where fried insects are more highly valued in culinary circles than a properly fried sausage.

Things have improved since those dark days. To be frank, they could not have got any worse. The emergence of English and Irish pubs in Bangkok and Pattaya has brought valuable breakfast expertise to these shores. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, ancient know-how was transferred to Thai chefs, who can now turn out breakfasts to rival those in a greasy spoon cafe on Blackpool's Golden Mile.

THE SACRED PRINCIPLES

A full English breakfast must contain bacon, sausages, black pudding, two eggs and toast to even be considered worthy of the name.

Bacon must be from the back of the pig, not the streaky, fatty stuff you find in Thailand. The thin streak of fat on the edge of the lean rashers should be crisp or at least crisping up.

Sausages must be pork and bursting with flavour, preferably containing herbs and a healthy meat-to-fat ratio. Cumberland and Lincolnshire sausages work well. They can be fried or grilled but the important thing is to cook them slowly on a low heat so that they cook right through. I have had many undercooked sausages in Thailand. Sometimes they are even deep-fried, which is totally against the rules.

Black pudding (blood sausage to Yanks) should be nicely seasoned with not too much fat.

Eggs can be scrambled or poached, but true aficionados will insist on them being fried, with the yolks soft but the white nicely firm.

Toast should be made with thick slices of white bread. It should be toasted to a nice brown shade (Thai cooks please note) and served with butter that is not still frozen.

Tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, hash browns and fried bread are optional extras. Tomatoes and mushrooms can come from tins but if fresh must be fried or grilled to an acceptable level. Nobody likes raw tomatoes and mushrooms except vegetarians.

No more than one potato element is permitted on an authentic full English, preferably a hash brown or potato cake, but chips or french fries are never acceptable.

The issue of marmalade or jam to go with your toast is a thorny one. It is permissible but if your breakfast is of the required size, the toast will be needed for the eggs and beans.

HOW TO CAUSE OFFENCE

Your full English in Thailand will usually be served with a range of condiments including salt, pepper, vinegar, brown sauce, ketchup and soy sauce.

If you see anyone putting ketchup on a breakfast, please shout abuse at them or call the manager. Ketchup is never, ever acceptable on an English breakfast. Anyone who doesn't recognise that simple truth is almost certainly an American.

Brown sauce, preferably HP, is compulsory. Its subtle spiciness is perfect with grilled or fried meats, while it counters the cloying sweetness of Thai baked beans.

Tea or coffee, preferably in large mugs, are the only drinks allowed as part of an English breakfast. Orange juice is too healthy, water is best avoided and alcohol should never be taken before noon.

BANGKOK'S BREAKFAST HUB

Lower Sukhumvit from sois 1 to 23 is a mecca for English breakfast lovers because of its plethora of English and Irish pubs.

Although seasoned breakfast veterans can get their fix in Pattaya for about 100 baht, you have to more or less match Thailand's minimum daily wage of 300 baht to get a morning repast of decent quality in the more expensive capital.

It is difficult to get a seriously bad English breakfast these days. Quality and quantity do vary, but they nearly all do the job of setting up the hungry Brit for the day.

With apologies to those excellent places that were not reviewed, we visited six of the best English breakfast providers based on recommendations from expatriate gourmets.

There had to be a winner. Taking into account quality, quantity and service, the winner by the width of a slice of buttered toast was Hanrahans, closely followed by The Queen Victoria and The Black Swan.

Liam Herrity, the Irish owner of Hanrahans, was eggstatic after being informed of his pub's success.

"We always try to source the best ingredients and we always listen to our customers. We even have different sausages for our breakfasts and our bangers and mash. Customers know what they want," he said.

"As an Irishman, I am trying to find white pudding to add to our breakfast, but I have not been able to find one with the authentic taste of home. I will keep on looking."

In the fiercely competitive world of full English breakfasts, perfection is hard to achieve.

Gold standard: Hanrahans owner Liam Herrity and waitress Tom serve the Irish pub's winning English breakfast. Photo: Peter Hill

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