It’s ironic that we’ve come full circle. We start our lives eating or being fed from a bowl. And after years of designer food served on flat plates, there are now sections on restaurant menus dedicated to ‘bowl food’. Even Lonely Planet has published a book on the subject — The World’s Best Bowl Food.

It is believed that the trend started in New York where time-poor hungry workers wanted healthy salads they could devour easily with a fork. Power bowls and Buddha bowls hit the mark.

Both feature superfoods such as quinoa, barley, raw and roasted or grilled vegetables, chopped nuts, cooked dried beans, raw vegetables and sometimes meat. The popularity of bowl food is such that it now includes ethnic dishes from around the world: curry, Tex-Mex and Vietnamese pho bowls.

So where did the name Buddha bowl originate? According to one source, Buddhists believed that it’s not what you eat but when you eat, and walked the streets early each morning carrying a bowl. Villagers donated a little of whatever they could afford which was mainly raw food and vegetarian. Hence the respect for Buddha bowls from vegans and vegetarians alike. These bowls provide a balance to life — and the other fast foods so readily available.

In other words, it’s a salad bowl. But instead of tossing all the ingredients together, they are generally neatly piled side-by-side and drizzled with a tasty dressing – and this, in my view, is a very necessary ingredient for many of the bowls on offer.


Use whatever fresh vegetables or nuts you have in your fridge.

4 small carrots
1/4 head cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
100g Mediterranean falafel mix
1 cup red cabbage slaw
1-2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup chopped oven-roasted almonds
Dressing: 2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons each: roasted tahini, water
1 teaspoon honey

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Cut the carrots into thin strips. Cut the cauli into florets or thick slices. Place in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with half the olive oil and sprinkle with the cumin, salt and pepper. Roast for about 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Cool.

Roll the falafel mix into six, walnut-sized balls. Pan-fry in the remaining olive oil, until golden. 

Place the ingredients neatly into two bowls and drizzle with the combined dressing ingredients. Serves 2.


A quick-and-easy lunch.

2 cups water
4cm piece root ginger, peeled and quartered
1 star anise
1 tablespoon each: soy sauce, fish sauce
1 large skinned and boned chicken breast
75g dried rice noodles eg pad Thai
1/2 cup each: mint leaves, coriander leaves
1/4 cup sliced green spring onion
1 long red chilli, sliced
2 lime wedges

Place the water in a medium saucepan with the ginger, star anise, soy sauce and fish sauce. Halve the chicken lengthwise and add. Slowly bring to boiling point. Reduce the heat and poach for 10-12 minutes until the chicken is just cooked.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.

Remove the chicken and thinly slice. Place the noodles in two bowls and top with the chicken and strained stock. Add the herbs and spring onion. Serve the chillies and lime wedges on the side. Serves 2.


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, diced
500g lean minced beef
400g can diced tomatoes
2 carrots, grated
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons paprika
Accompaniments: canned black beans, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, sour cream, corn chips

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and sauté the onion, until softened. Add the minced beef and brown well. Add the tomatoes, carrots and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until cooked.

Meanwhile, prepare the accompaniments. Drain the black beans and heat through.

To serve, ladle the chilli into four bowls on the side. Place the accompaniments neatly over the top and on the side and serve. Serves 4.


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