If you are a regular on Pinterest and Instagram, you are bound to have come across filtered shots of visually-inviting grains, vegetables, protein and condiments, served in a bowl. One-bowl mania seems to have taken the food scene across the globe by storm. Healthy and hearty with flavourful toppings, one-bowl meals are a diner’s delight.
Decidedly of Oriental origin, however, the Burmese Khow Suey or a Ramen bowl is no longer the only one-bowl meal topping the popularity charts. Today, from Korean bibimbap to a Japanese donburi, or a Buddha bowl with quinoa topped with cauliflower falafel and ratatouille to wild rice, pumpkin, black beans and avocado, the options are endless.
What contributes to the fame of these one-bowl meals is the fact that they do not get monotonous. One can create them across cuisines, and thus, tremendous variety can be inculcated.
Talk about convenience
Not only do they give chefs an opportunity to play with colours, flavours and textures and create a vibrant tableau, but they also save them the bother of presentation and filling up empty space on a plate. Convenience is unarguably the driving force, where one-bowl meals are concerned.
The real common denominator of these dishes is that they are packed with flavour, texture, crunch and colour. Add to that the fact that one-bowl meals are usually healthy, as they are a nutritious balance of grains, veggies and protein; they are, therefore, a great way to consume controlled portions and fewer calories.
Chef Paul Kinny, culinary director, Phoenix Mills Ltd, says, “The one-bowl meal trend in India started in 2016, and now it’s gone ahead to become a stable trend. At Shizusan in Bengaluru, we have an entire section dedicated to one-bowl meals, like the Tonkotsu Ramen, Vietnamese Pho, Burmese Khao Suey etc. What we’ve observed is that our diners are mostly corporates who come for lunch and are hard-pressed for time. The one-bowl meal then seems like the perfect solution. At 212 All Good, we have the Andaman Tuna Poke bowl and will probably experiment with acai bowls soon as well.”
Varied and versatile
A big bowl of noodles dunked in a hearty broth that is generously garnished with meats, spring onions and a plethora of toppings, including soft-boiled eggs, and spiked with a dash of chilli oil, at The Fatty Bao, or maybe Taipei’s Aromatic Miso Milk bowl from Shizusan, with their signature broth with udon noodles, tofu, and wakame, are appetising meals; all served in large bowls.
While it is commonly believed that one-bowl meals must generally be from Pan Asian cuisines, Monkey Bar has recently introduced a range of 12 hearty one-bowl meals for the winter in their Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata branches. These are largely inspired by Indian cooking, and have a range of flavours to choose from — Rajma bowl served with chilli pickle, papad and sirka onions, spicy yoghurt, spinach pakora, tawa aloo and rice; Wild mushroom khichdi bowl with slow-cooked mushrooms in a creamy moong dal khichdi; and the Panch Phoron and kasundi maach bowl, with surmai cooked in kasundi and served with gobindobhog rice.
Chef Manu Chandra, chef partner, Monkey Bar, The Fatty Bao and Toast & Tonic, elaborates, “The one-bowl meal finds inspiration in Asian cuisine, as the bowl was perfectly suited for dishes like ramen, soups and noodles. However, as more and more cuisines adopted the ‘bowl meal’ format, it now appears to be a growing trend worldwide. For instance, the ease of eating rajma-chawal in a bowl is comfort for me. One-bowl meals are here to stay, and eating out of a bowl certainly gives you a better chance of getting all the flavours and textures in your mouth with every bite.”
The best one-bowl meals do not have to contain meat or seafood. A Middle-Eastern Mujadara with brown rice and lentils, or a cauliflower rice tabouli, can be perfect one-bowl meals and wow the vegetarian palate.
Foodhall Delhi serves a vegetarian poke bowl with tofu cubes instead of the customary tuna, along with avocado and cucumber, and an Asian dressing. The bowl comes with a topping of pickled ginger, soy and wasabi.
One can also opt for quinoa tabbouleh, fresh vegetables, avocado, arugula, creamy edamame hummus, drizzled with chipotle vinaigrette and a hot sauce.
For some restaurants, one-bowl meals are also a great shot at responsible dining. “We have been offering ‘Meal in a Bowl’, across all ITC hotels for some time now. This initiative underscores our responsible luxury endeavours, that emphasise high-on-taste and low-on-waste composite dining experiences. Our team of chefs is at present working towards incorporating forgotten grains, rice varieties, seasonal and locally grown vegetables, indigenous to the region that the hotel is located in, to highlight the diverse kitchens of India,” says Vijay Nagpal, corporate chef, ITC Hotels.