Chicken Ramen Bowl
Chicken Ramen Bowl

No, it is not an ingredient, nor a dish. Not a plate or a platter! We are talking about an earthy simple bowl filled with grains, veggies and proteins that make up your nutritionally balanced meal.

Place it on your lap, perch it at any counter or hold it while curled up on the lounge, there is something comforting about the ‘power’ bowl in your hand looking so colourful and tempting. Guess what, it saves your cleaning time as well!

For convenience sake

The power bowl story of comfort is not restricted to what you can rustle up at home. Step out, walk into a restaurant and you will spot ‘Bowl Meal’ sections in the menu gleefully staring at you. Their fame story has permeated through almost all cuisines and chefs are loving to present hearty meal bowls with flavourful toppings.

Chef Liton Bhakta
Chef Liton Bhakta

They are a diner’s delight as they find eating out of a bowl ‘particularly comforting’. “Even if I had the option to eat off a plate, I would eat out of a bowl,” one ‘bowl lover’ diner remarked while lapping up ‘The Very Berry Smoothie Bowl’ at The Daily Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai. Liton Bhakta, Head Chef, smiled and was quick to point out, “The Very Berry Smoothie Bowl is our best selling bowl meal. Made with mulberry, blueberry, strawberry and hung curd, it is topped with malta orange, granola, watermelon seeds, and seasonal fruit. Packed with vitamins, it is gluttony made good with fresh fruits. It is a meal you can have to treat your sweet-tooth or to give yourself a boost for the busy day!” He adds, “We also have ‘The Daily’s Surf & Turf Bowl’ with bacon, shrimp, egg and edamame served with black rice. The latter serves as a good source of iron. For vegetarians, the ‘Black Quinoa Chickpea Salad Bowl’ — colourful, citrusy, sweet and crunchy — serves as an epitome of textures.”

Very Berry Smoothie Bowl
Very Berry Smoothie Bowl

It’s not just the diners who find it convenient to polish off a bowl but chefs too have got hooked on to orchestrate a wide variety of Bowl Meals. Chef Vikram Khatri, Business Head and Executive Head, Guppy Delhi and Hello Guppy Mumbai is particularly fond of preparing healthy Bowl Meals and Salad Bowls. He says, “It’s a brilliant concept of serving all components of a meal in one bowl where one can choose healthy options like black or brown rice, buckwheat flour noodles, millet, barley, quinoa etc. along with grilled vegetables, tofu, cottage cheese and meat.” He adds, “To serve it fresh, thumb rule is to assemble it at the last minute.” Talking about the ease factor, he further makes a point, “We not only get an opportunity to play with several elements and create a final vibrant product, it also saves our time in decorating the plates and platters. So it’s actually a wonderful way to present meals ‘on the go’ packed with flavour, texture, crunch and colour.”

Vibrant & flavourful

When you order a dish and it comes to you in a plate, there is a limitation of ingredients and seasoning there but when you get a bowl meal, it is complete in varied colours, flavours and textures as about a dozen ingredients and sauces have been used to make that meal.

Chef Vikram Khatri
Chef Vikram Khatri

Thanks to the popularity of bowl meals, the trend started a few years ago continues to go strong. At Burma Burma chain of restaurants serving authentic vegetarian Burmese cuisine, you can’t afford to miss the ‘Taungyi Shan Khowsuey’. “Closer to the staples of Myanmar, this dish comprises of a flavourful vegetable broth, served with rice noodles, pounded mock meat and pickled greens. Accompanied with fried garlic, shallots, peanuts, lemon, chilli and spring onions, the overall flavour of the khowsuey is similar to a thukpa or a Japanese ramen, reflecting the influence of its other South-East Asian counterparts,” explains Executive Chef Ansab Khan who often travels to Myanmar to explore the nuances of the cuisine.

Saurabh Khanijo, the man behind the Kylin chain of restaurants elaborates, “The one bowl meal finds its origin in Oriental meals as the bowl was just right for their staple dishes like ramen, soups and noodles. At Kylin we have several versions of Bowl Meals covering the entire Oriental belt from ‘Tuk Tuk Bowl’ — Aromatic Thai Curry served with Basil Rice, Prawns & Cherry Tomatoes/ Chicken & Baby Potatoes/ Mixed Vegetables to ‘Japanese Rapongi Bowl’ which is a healthy miso ramen soup meal. Do not miss our ‘Geisha Bowl’ — Panko Crusted Fried Pork Cutlet served on a bed of Udon Noodles.”

Black Quinoa Chickpea Salad
Black Quinoa Chickpea Salad

The one-bowl meal seems like the perfect solution in the fast paced lifestyle today. No harm and no complaints as they are not junk fast food but all nutrients generously garnished with fresh seasonings perked up with a dash of spice. Way to go, hail the bowl!

Why healthy bowls are having a trendy food moment!

· Perfect to savour when time is running out.

· Satisfies craving for something sweet, spicy and quick, all at one go.

· It is a complete meal laden in whole, natural foods, grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds and dairy.

· They are ‘back-to-basics’ - unprocessed food without hidden salts, sugar and additives.

· Preparation of bowl meal without stepping in the kitchen is smart cooking and a rewarding act.

Sharmila Chand is a senior food writer and author

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