Is the Buddha Bowl the new Veggie Stack?
The ‘Buddha Bowl’
Firstly, let me address the inverted commas bracketing Buddha Bowl, as let’s face it the Buddha Bowl has become the new Veggie Stack. What’s the hype? Why is it so popular and where did this spring from?
Veggie Stacks were the coolest vegetarian/vegan alternative on any 90's menu, closely followed by the Stir Fry - but now there’s the Buddha Bowl - the super menu item choice that keeps on giving.
Let’s chat about why it’s called a Buddha Bowl and why it’s the new black for bowled food.
Buddha Bowls have been trending (another word I’d like to pull apart actually- trending?!), but yes, trending on social media, cafe menus and the lips of any self respecting vegan. I googled Buddha Bowl as I don’t claim to actually know the true origin and it appears that there’s many versions and names of this thrown together, but perfectly placed and highly photographed bowl of colours.
To be a Buddha Bowl there should be a base of grains, followed by toppings of raw, cooked, seasoned and flavoursome ingredients, preferably vegan (of course!) and also preferably healthy (if you insist). Conveniently those lovely colours of the rainbow veggies, grains, proteins and fruits are healthy and visually pleasing, so these bowls also make for great insta photos and with the power of social media the Buddha Bowl is a thing.
Also dubbed hippie bowls, grain bowls, macro bowls, açaí bowls, power bowls and whatever-you-like-as-long-as-it’s-served-in-a-bowl bowls. But why Buddha? Bowls of various ingredients placed over noodles in soups have been a traditional meal in many cultures, think Japanese ramen noodle soup, Vietnamese pho and the Hawaiian poke bowl. But ‘Buddha Bowl’ has seemingly no history with the enlightened teacher nor teachings, but has come about as recently as 2016 as a trend that appears here to stay.
Some say the bowl represents a Buddha belly, others suggest the bowls were modeled on Buddha’s head, but more likely from what I’ve researched, the concept is based on Buddhist Monks taking bowls to the village to receive vegetarian food offerings from the people. This is called Alms, a daily practice of Almsgiving has died out in many countries like China, Japan and Korea due to belief it drained poor locals of food and more modern traditions have taken its place. In Thailand though, the practice continues and even tourists may participate respectfully and are welcomed, an experience I have personally been honored in doing. Receiving Alms is not about charity, but about a symbolic connection, respect to the monks for sharing the teachings of Buddha and an opportunity for a blessing.
An Alms bowl was traditionally used and were made from clay or iron, now commonly stainless steel. The bowl itself is very sacred and symbolic within the teachings of Buddhism.
A beautiful practice and so much information and informative readings but I will digress... So the origin of the Buddha bowl we see all over social media today, it seems is not as far removed as first believed from its namesake. As during Almsgiving the Monks bowl would slowly fill with small portions of different food types placed with love and respect within the bowl by people wishing to honour, respect and give nourishment and thanks. So picture a bowl filled with small portions of different foods, grains, veggies and fruits, carefully and respectfully placed and there you have something very similar to what we call a Buddha Bowl today.
As in the past, our Buddha Bowls should be for nourishment, but when placed in that bowl with mindfulness, the mixture of healthy veggies, grains, spices and fruits do deserve to be admired visually too and respected as a thoughtful experience. The concept of mindfulness and the importance of balance, which are also practiced in Buddhism, are represented within the bowl of nourishment. I wonder then ... photographing our food, as seen so often in cafes, now may just be the modern version of a little thankfulness and our pics on insta may just be a blessing shared... at a stretch perhaps, but either way a bowl of grains, veggies and fruits can’t be bad whatever they’re called.
Buddha bowl sits well with me now and will continue to be a lovely way to serve leftovers, an artistic way to present my grains and a delish menu item that I always seem to fall back on.
How, you ask do you make one? Google dozens of easy recipes or just cook up some marinated tofu, slice some raw colorful veggies, shred some bright leafy greens and reds and place on top of some wholesome grains in a bowl. Prepare a weeks worth of cut up portions of yummy dishes, keep in the fridge then each night you can arrange a different variety of bowl. Use a variety of grains like brown rice or quinoa, add proteins like chick peas, curried lentils, or seasoned Tempe. Arrange your wholesome selections of veggies, seeds, nuts and more in colour contrasting sections and .... pause to admire - photo on insta is an optional extra.
Now do not treat it like a tossed salad and destroy by mixing it!
Instead, enjoy slowly, mindfully tasting each section in its own flavoursome right, select complimentary textures and flavours to share with your tastebuds, delights in its colours, smell the combination of spices, herbs and seasonings and feel the love within it was prepared. A Buddha Bowl should satisfy all your senses. Ahhhhhhh 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻.
Above: A breakfast version of the Buddha Bowl; chia seed, organic oats, ground flax seed, pepetas, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds all soaking up the almond milk base. Top with berries or fruits of choice and I served mine with the yummiest coconut yogurt and cinnamon.
Below: A Buddha Plate? Why not??!! Brown rice with sesame seeds, sweet potato mash, chopped kale with lemon juice, satay tofu, smashed avo, and roasted beetroots.