From Gwyneth Paltrow to Nigella Lawson, everyone seems to be bowled over by the Buddha Bowl.
Buddha Bowl is a concept that’s gaining popularity at avocado-and-kale-like rate. So what are Buddha bowls? Well, they are the aesthetically pleasing, Instagram friendly, and typically ultra healthy dishes that are assembled in bowls, a trend that has been popularised by an abundance of food bloggers. A bowl typically contains dishes composed of grains, veggies (raw, sautéed or roasted), protein (legumes, tofu or meat), greens and seeds. And lastly, a hearty dressing to add to the deliciousness and up the visual appeal. “Not only is a Buddha Bowl well balanced nutritionally but also appealing to the eye as they are colourful and have varying textures,” says Jay Goradia, Partner, Buddha Bowl, Mumbai’s first takeaway only outlet serving Buddha Bowls. Though the outlet also serves rice and noodle bowls, almost 60 per cent of the sales come from the Buddha bowls.
You might be thinking, “But why is it called a Buddha Bowl?” A popular thought is that a bowl loaded to the brim looks like Buddha’s rounded belly — but that’s not true. Buddha himself was slim and not the round-bellied figure Western culture has come to morph him into — that was another monk, years later. Buddha believed that food should sustain life and good health, not overtake your life. The ‘Bowl’ image may come from Buddha’s practice of walking through villages with a bowl, living off donations, eating only that which was given.
The rise of the Bowl
Simply put, Buddha Bowl is shorthand for food that is simultaneously soothing, bolstering, undemanding and sustaining. The bowls are also a way to make healthy eating more interesting and delicious. “The reason these bowls are called Buddha Bowls is that they are not just made for feeding your body with well rounded nutrition, but also feeding your mind and soul. It’s said that colour combinations of certain ingredients can stimulate different feelings. These bowls are so not just beautiful, Instagramable, but also well rounded meals as they pair a vegetable, protein and a carb,” explains chef Kelvin Cheung, Corporate Chef and Consultant, Aallia Hospitality.
The concept of bowl food is particularly popular among disciples of virtuous eating. British food writer Nigella Lawson saw enough merit in the trend to devote a chapter to it in her cookbook Simply Nigella for those cozy nights on the sofa. Beyond this, food researchers suggest that the popularity of the bowl might be psychological. “I think the bowl helps us eat less. Research says that we tend to use our eyes to count calories and not our stomachs. I think a bowl plays a salient, accurate visual cue in the prevention of unintentional overeating. And if one reduces the bowl size, one can also make this more effective,” explains author and columnist Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal.
A Buddha Bowl, by design, brings all of your senses together and centres your attention on the food you are about to eat. No side plates, no under plates, no extra cutlery, not even a table — just your meal in your hand. “The idea is to eat the right foods in a fancy bowl just to make it more appealing. Remember, we lure children with colourful foods or presenting the food items more creatively so that they eat well. A similar logic is used here. This is just an adult way to promote healthy eating. Therefore, it is imperative to choose wisely and make healthy Buddha bowls,” says nutritionist Karishma Chawla.
What’s in the bowl?
The first step in making a Buddha Bowl is to pick your grain of choice. “Along with fibre, grains provide carbohydrates, protein and a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. It’s for these reasons that grains make an excellent addition to Buddha Bowls. Choose complex and good carbohydrates that maintain sugar levels. These can be found in oats, quinoa, dalia or red rice (drop white rice) with whole legumes or pulses,” says Chawla.
The next step is selecting your veggies. Beans, mushrooms, broccoli, kale, spinach, pumpkin and zucchini all work well. Sauté the veggies with some oil and for flavour add crushed garlic, herbs and spices. You can even sprinkle the vegetables with spices like ground cumin, coriander, chilli, cinnamon or paprika. Saute the veggies at the same time the grain component is cooking, so the elements are cooked and warm at once. Step three is choosing your protein — go for lean protein like chicken or fish. Skim paneer, tofu and egg whites can be other options. To add freshness to the bowl, cut up fresh tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, capsicum, carrot — the choice is yours. You can even include seasonal fruits like mango, muskmelon, grapes and apple. Avocado is everyone’s favourite healthy fat, so add a few slices or a spoonful of guacamole for creamy richness. Olives, pomegranate seeds, chia seeds or black sesame seeds can make for great toppings. The dressing could be as simple as tahini, honey-lemon, Thai peanut dressing or barbecue. Plain yogurt with a pinch of salt and pepper is another classic. The last bit is the most fun — assembly. Get your favourite bowl and start assembling the groups of ingredients in whichever order you prefer.
Make it your way
There’s no ‘one way’ to make a Buddha Bowl and that’s the beauty of them. “You can design your own bowl with ingredients and flavours you like. It’s all about loading up personal favourites while keeping it healthy. Just make sure to balance the different types of food you put in the bowl. These delicious bowls of food, don’t have to be 100 per cent warm or cold. In fact one of the wonderful things about the bowl is the variety of temperatures as well as textures.
Fish Bowl from Bastian, Mumbai
100 gm Grilled Snapper
50 gm Iceberg lettuce
50 gm Red cabbage
50 gm Green cabbage
40 gm Avocado
2 gm Cilantro
4 ml Fresh lime juice
30 gm Kimchi vinaigrette
Wash, clean and chop vegetables to desired size. Mash avocado with chopped cilantro and lime juice. Lightly pan sear snapper until golden brown. Toss cut vegetables with kimchi vinaigrette. Assemble bowl: first vegetables, then fish, and garnish with avocado cream.