By Emily Ryan, The Mercury
“Ooh. What’s that?” a woman in workout gear asked, admiring a colorful combination of banana, blueberries, granola and coconut atop a spoonable smoothie.
“An acai bowl,” replied the general manager of Raw Can Roll Café in Wayne. “The taste is awesome.”
“Nutritionally, it is very balanced,” added Badruzzaman Alamgir, Al B for short. “It has a good amount of protein.”
He also serves three “very popular” vegan rice bowls.
“I think it’s a great trend,” said personal chef Emily Scott of West Chester, aka The Wildflower Chef, whose repertoire includes a chicken burrito bowl, Thai shrimp noodle bowl and more. “You can really showcase fresh ingredients, which chefs love, everybody loves.”
Plus, “you can mix up a basic recipe a ton of different ways to suit everyone,” she described. “I like the versatility.”
At the new PlantPure Café in Philadelphia, customers build their own bowls, starting with a base of rice and quinoa or roasted potatoes, adding veggies, plant protein and sauce.
“If I had to pick a bowl, I would have all the vegetables. I would have roasted potatoes. I would have soy strips, and I would have red curry,” said chef Fernando Peralta, who debuted food bowls at his previous vegan restaurant, Vgë Café in Bryn Mawr.
“People loved the idea of the bowls,” he explained. “I think it’s quickly becoming something that a lot of other restaurants are doing.”
And it’s easy enough to try at home.
“It’s quick. It’s inexpensive. It’s diverse,” Peralta said. “It’s filling, and it’s satisfying.”
Personal chef Emily Scott, aka The Wildflower Chef, often wonders “about the practicality of some bowls I see on Instagram!”
“Yes, you want to make your food bowl beautiful and attractive to the eye, but be sure to cut ingredients into reasonable bite-sized pieces,” she explained. “Presentation only gets you so far if the ingredients are impossible to eat.”
“For me, food bowls should be really easy to eat with just a fork or spoon, no knives required,” Scott added.
Finally, a tip about temperature: “My favorite food bowls combine cooked components with raw ingredients,” she noted, “so room temperature is perfect for serving.”
10 ounces organic almond milk
¾ cup organic frozen banana
¾ cup organic frozen strawberries
¾ cup organic frozen blueberries
¾ cup organic frozen mango
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons organic peanut butter
1 heaping tablespoon acai powder
¾ organic banana, sliced
4 ounces homemade granola
2 ounces organic blueberries
2 ounces coconut shavings
Blend almond milk, frozen fruit, vanilla, peanut butter and acai powder. Do not add ice. It should be thick. Spoon into bowl and arrange toppings, starting with sliced banana on the perimeter. Add granola and blueberries in the middle and top with coconut shavings.
Recipe courtesy of Raw Can Roll Café
Thai Shrimp Noodle Bowls
¼ cup lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
12 ounces thin rice noodles (usually found in the Asian foods aisle)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 head Bibb lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
12 ounces cooked shrimp (tail on or off), chilled
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, halved, seeds removed and thinly sliced
½ cup sliced scallion
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)
Lime wedges, to serve
Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and toss with oil to prevent sticking.
Layer lettuce leaves on the bottom of four serving bowls. Top with noodles, then arrange the shrimp, bean sprouts, bell pepper, cucumber and scallions artfully around the outside of the bowl. Top with fresh cilantro leaves and chopped peanuts, if using. Drizzle the dressing over the noodle bowls just before serving. Serve with lime wedges.
Recipe courtesy of The Wildflower Chef
Chicken Burrito Bowl
1 cup brown rice, any type
2 cups chicken broth
4 chicken breasts
Vegetable oil, for greasing
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can corn, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded cheese (Monterey jack or cheddar both work well)
1 cup prepared fresh salsa
1 ripe avocado, diced
½ cup sour cream
Lime wedges, for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. For the rice: Cook rice following package directions, using the chicken broth in place of water. (You may use slightly less than 2 cups of broth depending on the type of rice you are using.) Cover and keep warm.
For the chicken: Grease a baking dish with oil, then place chicken in the dish. Drizzle the chicken with oil, if desired, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the chicken with a (greased) piece of parchment paper, tucking the paper over the chicken so that it is completely covered. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove chicken from the oven and once cool enough to handle, shred the meat.
To assemble: Divide the rice evenly between four bowls. Top with shredded chicken. Around the outside of the bowl, arrange the black beans, corn, shredded cheese, salsa, and diced avocado. Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve with lime wedges.
Recipe courtesy of The Wildflower Chef