Summer Buddha Bowls

Buddha bowls have made a mysterious appearance around here lately. They are deceptive little meals. Initially, they seem easy enough- shove a few things in a bowl, grab a fork or chopsticks and plonk yourself and filled bowl in front of Netflix, then veg out – literally. But once you get into the building stage, you may find yourself led down a culinary rabbit hole, creating more and more interesting elements to complement your initial idea.

Buddha bowls, otherwise known as macro or hippy bowls, have been around for a few years, spreading from the inner suburban haunts of the hipster to outer suburban cafés and the countryside. According to the urban dictionary, ‘Buddha bowls are packed so full that they have a rounded belly appearance on the top much like the belly of a buddha’. While I’m not one for succumbing to food trends, I love a hippy macro buddha bowl in summer, so long as certain conventions are followed.

A fine Buddha Bowl is one where the individual elements and flavours complement each other culturally and ethnically. I tend to apply this general principle to other plated meals too. I don’t like mixing Middle Eastern foods with Asian, or Mediterranean with Indonesian, though I have eaten some culturally mismatched foods in cafes which make me cringe. I like to start with a particular cuisine- Japanese, for example, then ferret around the pantry and fridge finding elements that build on that theme. You could add more guidelines: there should be contrast in colour and texture and the composition should be appealing to the eye and not look like a dog’s dinner. Try to include one grain, preferably a wholegrain, the macro element, and some form of protein- such as egg, fish, pulses, beans, or tofu, as well as fresh uncooked vegetables, something pickled, seeds or nuts, and a good dressing. Your bowl doesn’t have to be overflowing like a fat Buddha- a few contrasting elements with some good flavour is all you need.

Today’s macro hippy buddha bowl followed a Japanese path and tasted clean and sustaining. It  included:

  • brown rice, cooked, cooled a little, then dressed with sushi dressing and black sesame seeds
  • tofu chunks, fried, then glazed in a miso and mirin sauce
  • pickled cucumber and red onion with ginger for crunch
  • fresh mustard leaves, shredded
  • young radishes

It was one of my ‘holier than thou’ bowls, perfect for the post-Christmas season, the umami element, the warm miso sauced fried tofu, saving the dish from total puritanism. I also considered adding some torn nori. Steamed green beans tossed in browned sesame seed sauce might have gone well too, or a sliced avocado. On market day, a crunchy fried miso glazed small fish would be a good addition. The thing is to use what you have that sits comfortably within a particular country’s culinary framework and that includes using a neutral flavoured oil, and not olive oil, if heading down the Asian path.

When does a bowl become a share platter? New terminology for old ideas. The Medit bowl made from Puy lentils, dressed in olive oil and sherry vinegar, parsley, shallots, goat’s cheese, black olives, toasted almonds. Served with croutons.

Last week’s bowls included a Mediterranean bowl for two ( pictured above) and an Indian feast. To be fair, Indian bowls are as old as Buddha himself. While the rice and dhal are cooking, begin creating small add ons- baked cauliflower with whole cumin seeds, toasted almonds, hard-boiled eggs, and a simple raita, made from yoghurt and cucumber or mint. At this time of year, fresh mango chutney adds a seasonal sweet touch.

The Indian bowl. White rice, hard-boiled egg, baked cauliflower in Indian spices with toasted slivered almonds. Masoor Dal, tomato salad, Raita with mint, mango chutney.

Today’s pickle was made as the rice cooked. It goes well with Japanese meals and makes a nice crunchy change from the commercial pink pickled ginger. It is not one to store.

  • 2 small cucumbers, finely sliced
  • one red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup rice vinegar/ or apple cider if improvising
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced/grated ginger.
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes.

Layer vegetables in a small jar. Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar, stir until blended and pour over. Leave for one hour.

Part of today’s culinary rabbit hole- a crunchy fresh pickle.

Happy Holidays dear readers.

31 thoughts on “Summer Buddha Bowls”

  1. I love the simplicity of these bowls. And I agree that cuisines should be kept separate. Thanks for reminding me that the simple, well thought out things are often the best.

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  2. Methinks. first and foremost, you like the words ‘buddha’, ‘macro’ and ‘hippy’ 🙂 !! Me too!!! Having just departed a post offering NY ‘diet’ resolutions, these are much more exciting and your Japanese bowl will be my next meal! So agree with not mixing foods from different cultures but such all get eaten with chopsticks in this house . . . . Happy change of year, beautiful lady, and may 2018 be kind to all of us . . .

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    1. Thanks beautiful Eha, and all the best for the coming change of date to you too. Yes, so true- Buddha, macro and hippy are us, in essence. It sums up who I am now, and parts of who I was along the way.

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  3. I love all your bowl creations 😍 Buddha and such bowls are on trend but the basics in a prosaic plastic tub have formed many a byo office desk lunch for years. I get a cheap thrill from making cafe food at home and comparing my cost to what would be the in-cafe spend.

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    1. Yes, me too. I often find it amazing that people spend so much on breakfast staples that I make for tuppence here- with home made sourdough and free range eggs and a few odds and ends from the garden. If I eat out, it has to be a bit more special and something I can’t, or won’t, make a home for a song.

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    2. Yes, me too. I often find it amazing that people spend so much on breakfast staples that I make for tuppence here- with home made sourdough and free range eggs and a few odds and ends from the garden. If I eat out, it has to be a bit more special and something I can’t, or won’t, make a home for a song.

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  4. Lovely idea. I find it hard to tell the borders between cuisines, though. I live in a culture which imported the samosa from the middle east and then filled it with potato imported from the Americas, after adding some spices from south east asia.

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  5. These Buddha bowls would simply be called salads here in Greece – we get fabulous ones in the winter with a mix of all sorts of veg (fresh and pickled/fermented) along with grains and often with the addition of cheeses. I agree about mixing cuisines, but often it is about simply combining things that have complimentary flavours. I have noticed that sometimes chefs carry this fusion thing a bit too far – as if they have run out of ideas. We tend to seek less trendy places where the food is local and is well cooked – or better yet, cook it at home after sourcing ingredients in the garden or the market.

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    1. yes, I guess they used to be called salads, or composed salads back in the old days here- it”s remarkable how things get reinvented and Melbourne, being a multicultural culinary kind of place, is sometimes too trendy for its own good. Like you, when I dine out, I try to find more authentic places- here, this usually means Vietnamese.

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  6. Your Buddha Bowls look delicious. I’ve been looking for new ideas for dinners and this fits the bill. To me, Buddha Bowls are more than just a salad. They are a complete meal of
    all the necessary food groups flavored to one’s liking and artfully combined in a single serving bowl rather than on a plate. I wouldn’t normally add a grain or a bean puree to a salad, so that’s what makes them different in my mind. But no matter what one calls them, they make a perfect, healthy meal. Here in California, we have a wide variety of small take-out/eat-in restaurants that serve Buddha Bowls. I need to go get me one now!
    Donna

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    1. Hi Donna, the Buddha bowl has taken over here in Melbourne too. Middle Eastern bowls are popular, with couscous, chick peas and other salads like tabouleh and babaganouge- as well as salad elements… happy food grazing. F

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