Growing up, no one ever told us that adult life would include boring things like figuring out what to eat for the next meal, and trying to create something interesting so we’re not sick of eating the same thing over and over again. Enter: Rice Bowls. They’re quite simple to make, convenient to eat, and you can easily create a meal plan for the week ahead, and make sure most of your prep work is done and out the way.
But a rice bowl doesn’t just mean a bowl of rice with some greens and protein on top of it. A bowl of rice with other ingredients on top of it can be delicious if you put in a little thought and planning, and we’ll give you broad guidelines so you can have a tasty lunch and dinner every day.
Start With The Rice
Before you start anything, you have to start with the rice bowl’s eponymous rice. Pick your grain properly—whether you’re fine with white rice, or you’d like to switch to a healthier brown rice. If you’re not on board with rice, switch to a different grain like quinoa, couscous, farro, bulgur wheat, or millets. Half your rice bowl should be composed of the grain, and everything else is to be eaten with it. To add more flavour to your grain, cook it with stock instead of regular water.
Pick Your Toppings
Don’t go overboard with what you put on top. Since the grain itself is going to be bland, make sure your toppings add flavour and are cooked and seasoned well. Go with things that promise big bursts of flavour, no points for subtle flavours here. If you want to make a steak-based rice bowl, ensure that you salt the steak well, cook it with a fat that’s infused generously with garlic and herbs. If you’d like to opt for a chicken-based rice bowl, don’t poach the chicken. Braise it, roast it, or even stir-fry it with a punchy sauce. Similarly, with your vegetables, make sure you don’t overcook them, and toss them well in a well-seasoned sauce before assembling your bowl.
Make Sure Everything Is Bite-Sized
The only cutlery your rice bowl should need is a spoon, fork, or chopsticks—no knife. So make sure your fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, and your garnish are all cut into small, bite-sized pieces that you can just pick up and eat.
A Good Mix of Texture and Flavour Is Vital
One of the things that can make or break your rice bowl is how you combine your flavours and textures. If you’re using a steak, soft-boiled eggs, or tofu, add a crisp sauerkraut or kimchi on the side, as well as vegetables with a bite to it, like beans, bok choy, beets, or carrots. If you’ve got a batter-fried pork or chicken cutlet, you can have softer vegetables or greens like spinach, roasted brinjal or zucchini.
As far as flavour is concerned, the best way to do this is to try and incorporate as many harmonious flavours as you can. Add some heat with chili flakes in the sauce or finely chopped red chillies on the bowl. Wasabi, horseradish, mustard are great ways to add flavour and a bit of excitement to your rice bowl. To add a little acidity, try pickled ginger as a topping, or as we mentioned before, kimchi or sauerkraut do a great job too. In a pinch, a squeeze of lime or a bit of tamarind in your sauce will work just as well. Seaweed, mushrooms, shrimp paste, soy sauce, miso—these ingredients work wonderfully to add that umami to your rice bowl. And finally, add a bit of freshness to it with your garnishes. Sliced green onions or a sprinkling of fresh herbs, and you’re good to go.
The Sauce is Key
You can’t just add a heaping of rice and some toppings and call it a day—a good rice bowl needs a sauce to coat your toppings and flavour your rice. But don’t look at the sauce as a gravy; your rice and toppings can’t be floating in it. That’ll just turn your rice bowl into a soup with mushy rice and vegetables in it. Make sure your sauce is thick and viscous, enough to coat the toppings and just about seep into your rice, creating something cohesive to bind the two together.
Leftovers are perfect for rice bowls because you can easily pick one centrepiece and construct the rest of your bowl around it. Have some roasted meat or stir-fry left, but not enough for an entire meal? No problem. Convert it into a topping, add some pickles, cook some rice, boil an egg, and get to assembling.
Deliberate Assembly is Important
Don’t just throw everything in together; the way you construct your bowl will determine how you eat it. Spoon your rice into your bowl first, and spoon over some of your sauce evenly. Then, go through your toppings. Do you have small ingredients like shredded seaweed or small vegetables? Then sprinkle them all over your rice bowl. Larger pieces of vegetables, meat, eggs, or fish should be piled on one side of the bowl so you can pick how much you want to get with each spoon of your rice, and then drizzled with more sauce. If you’re adding really strong flavours like wasabi, add it in a small clump in one corner, so you can choose how much of it you want to add—not everyone is into pungent flavours!