One complaint I regularly hear about cooking meals at home is that it takes too much time in the kitchen to put together a delicious, satisfying, and healthy meal for the family. After all, we live in a society where it’s all too convenient to hit the drive through. That’s why “the bowl” meal is your saving grace. By throwing together your basic meal components—protein, starch, and vegetable—you get everything you need in one easy bowl. Zsu Dever’s new “Vegan Bowls: Perfect Flavor Harmony in Cozy One-Bowl Meals” cookbook will not only show you how to do this, but will help you create a bowl that hits all the right notes—texture, aroma, color, flavor combinations, and taste—speedily and healthfully.
Before I delve into the highlights of this cookbook, be sure to check out Zsu’s website. She has an extensive background in the restaurant business and vegan cooking, and hails from a long line of culinary professionals and restaurateurs. She is passionate about teaching new vegans and vegetarians how to succeed with their plant-based lifestyle and sharing the recipes that keep her family happy. Considering most of these recipes only take about 30 minutes to prepare, I daresay you and your family, too, will be pleased with the recipes in this cookbook 🙂
Zsu’s book is broken down into several bowl sections:
- All About Bowl Food
- Just-in-case Basics
- Grain Bowls
- Sautéed Bowls
- Pasta Bowls
- Grilled Bowls
- Salad Bowls
- Soup Bowls
- Breakfast Bowls
- Build Your Own Bowls
The first and last chapters help you understand the basics of building a successful bowl meal and the Just-in-case Basics chapter provides a few extra recipes that “will augment the others in this book.” Then you get into a plethora of recipes for whatever type of dish you’re in the mood for—breakfast, lunch, dinner, pasta, soup, etc. There are a lot of traditional dishes in this cookbook that pay homage to classic recipes (with a vegan twist) as well as original recipes from Zsu, so there are a fantastic variety of meals to choose from.
It’s important to read the recipes clearly before you begin cooking (as is the rule for any recipe) and to put all your components in place beforehand. This makes for being as efficient as possible in the kitchen, which, of course, is something we all want 😉
One thing Zsu mentions, and I can attest to this in my cooking from this cookbook, is that just because the end result is a one-bowl meal, you’ll still want to make sure you have the appropriate utensils, pots, and plenty of counter space before you begin cooking. In case there’s any question about what you’ll need, Zsu has provided a handy “Kitchen Equipment” section in her cookbook. There’s also an ingredient glossary so you can do the appropriate grocery shopping, although many of the recipes call for ingredients that aren’t too hard or inconvenient to come by these days. Thank goodness for that; I can’t stand it when a cookbook that claims to help you save time calls for hard-to-find ingredients that you actually lose time in trying to find!
Another feature I really love about this cookbook is that there are plenty of little side notes that detail gluten-free, soy-free, even oil-free options as well as other substitutions tips.
I was thrilled with the recipe I made from Vegan Bowls—the Indonesian Stir-Fried Noodle Bowl. The sauce was flavorful and really elevated the basic ingredients that tend to have little-to-no flavor on their own. That’s the magic of this cookbook—the art of the perfect bowl. This recipe serves four people and the portion sizes are pretty good (in case you have a hearty appetite like me!). And while I’m not a member of a family of four, I’m actually okay with that. More bowl for me!
Indonesian Stir-Fried Noodle Bowl
Mei goreng or bami goreng is a popular street food all over Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. It is a sweet and spicy dish of noodles fried with vegetables and eggs. The sauce usually calls for kecap manis, a thick, sweet sauce, but here we will make our own sauce using tamari, mirin, fresh ginger, and garlic.
8 ounces medium-thickness brown rice noodles
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup reduced-sodium tamari
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon sambal oelek, or to taste
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon natural sugar
1/4 cup vegetable broth, divided
1 small red onion, cut into 1/8-inch slices
3 cups small broccoli florets
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 celery rib, cut into 1/8-inch slices
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or vegetable broth
6 ounces baby kale or baby spinach
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed in a bowl of hot water and drained
NOODLES: Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add the noodles and cook just shy of al dente, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Drain the noodles and cool under running water. Set aside.
SAUCE: Combine the broth, tamari, mirin, sambal oelek, ginger, garlic, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
VEGETABLES: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of broth and the onion. Stir and cook until the onion is browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of broth to the skillet. Add the broccoli. Stir and cook until the broccoli begins to char, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, celery, garlic and 1 tablespoon of broth. Stir and cook until the cabbage begins to char, about 2 more minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside with the onion. Add the sauce to the skillet and simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the oil or 2 more tablespoons of broth, the kale, the edamame, the reserved noodles, and the reserved vegetables. Stir and cook until the pasta is warmed through and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with more sambal oelek and tamari. Serve hot in bowls.
(Recipe from Vegan Bowls, copyright© 2015 by Zsu Dever. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press, LLC.)