The buddha bowl is a bowl that overflows with colourful, tasty looking and particularly healthy food. The dish is based on a grain; for example (wild) rice, quinoa or bulgur are accompanied by a collection of vegetables and other vegetarian or vegan ingredients, which are added raw, steamed, cooked or fried. Avocado, pumpkin, red cabbage and chickpeas are popular in this dish and sweet buddha bowls are also available, but anything is possible with a bit of imagination.
Looking back at the very short history of this dish, it seems to have been ‘Professional Housewife’, American entrepreneur Martha Stewart, who first recorded the dish in her 2013 book, Meatless. The dish slowly but surely gained in popularity, exploding into a real phenomenon in 2016. Suddenly the buddha bowl was everywhere: on restaurant menus, in blog posts and especially on social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest. Looks are just as important as content in the buddha bowl: once the bowl has been presented, photographed and filtered, it will offer a beautiful display of healthy eating.
According to the online resource for slang and colloquialism, Urban Dictionary, the buddha bowl is so called because it is ‘so stuffed that it creates a convex “belly” on top, reminiscent of the belly of a Buddha’. But there is actually a little more to the etymology of the dish. Estimated to have lived in the sixth- to fourth-centuries BC, Buddha is said to have taken his bowl, every morning, looking for charity from nearby houses. The householders would put bits of food that they could spare into his bowl, so his breakfast was a collection of leftovers. The custom still exists among some Buddhist monks in Southeast Asia, and the collaborative nature of Buddha’s bowl has made its way into Western menus.
Did you know...?
Buddha lived in ancient India. You could suggest that the buddha bowl originated in Indian cuisine, but the average Indian might be a bit surprised…
The dish usually consists of the following layers, usually from bottom to top (although you may deviate from this for aesthetic reasons):
- Grains or starch: Silver rice, wild rice, quinoa, pumpkin, (purple) potatoes.
- Protein: Tempe strips, tofu cubes, mushrooms, chickpeas, egg, lentils.
- Vegetables: Avocado is almost obligatory, but you can add anything you like.
- Sauce: Tahini dressing, hummus, soy sauce, lemon juice, vinaigrette.
- Toppings: Bean sprouts or cress, fresh herbs, sesame seeds, nuts.
Because there are no fixed rules, you will also see buddha bowls with pasta, fish and/or meat, although these ingredients somehow seem less authentic and Buddha-like. Nevertheless, you can put anything in a buddha bowl, and this vast range of possibilities means that the dish can sometimes resemble a poké bowl, a smoothie bowl, or even a pimped-up bowl of breakfast cereals.
The buddha bowl is an all-in-one meal – you won’t need any side dishes.
How to eat
First: take a picture and post it. Only then are you allowed to eat.