I couldn’t resist the title. But it’s not a post about a goldfish in a bowl but about a build-a-bowl obsession I’ve just acquired. I’ve been taking a long overdue break (yes, revenge traveling) in California and discovered that bowls are really a thing here. It’s not a very new concept but I fell in love with it because I realized it’s a great tool for portion control and still keeping food fun by making sure it looks pretty and interesting. We eat with our eyes first after all!
The idea for a build a bowl is to have a kind of grain base as well as some protein and vegetable to top it; what makes bowls distinctive are the pops of colours, the mixes different textures (think crispy versus fresh versus warm and comforting all in one bowl. Of course there can be themes like rice bowls (what I made today) or Buddha bowls (mostly vegetarian) or a salad bowl. Skeptics may think that an Asian bowl is just putting our usual one meat and one veg classic dinner dishes all into one bowl. Well, yes and no – I recently had dinner at a friend’s place and the classic Japanese beef bowl was really amazing! That bowl was perfect thematically with the seared beef slices topped with miso butter and nestled next to sautéed mushrooms, ikura and an onsen egg over a bed of rice. Successful bowls are not just creative, they should pay tribute to the source of cuisine they represent.
The great thing about building a bowl is that you can use a variety of cooking techniques for each component in the bowl. The bowl I made here has had the vegetables and salmon baked on a sheet pan, cauliflower rice cooked on the stove and some fresh tomatoes and parsley chopped together. So it is actually a really quick and convenient way of putting together a meal.
Since I’ve been traveling, I’ve been cooking in a series of AirBnB kitchens. The best so far is the third one on our trip in Sonoma as it comes equipped with an oven. We’ve eaten a lot of fantastic restaurant meals but it is nice to come home in the evening and have a home-cooked meal.
For dinner I made this fish bowl (actually it’s a cauliflower rice bowl topped with baked salmon and oven-roasted vegetables and a fresh tomato salad and egg). It was a super easy meal to make even though I did set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen. Luckily the fire engine didn’t come and I switched my skillet a hob closer to the fume hood. It was also the ideal way for me to use up remnant vegetables like eggplant and zucchini. I’ve had to be disciplined about using up ingredients as we have been traveling around quite a bit and it’s no fun carrying bags of groceries alongside several bulging suitcases.
Anyway as a side note – I suspect most of my rice bowls will be made of cauliflower rice. The cauliflower is super low in carbohydrates unlike other “healthy” grains like quinoa or freekeh. The cauliflower I’ve been cooking with here in the US has been amazing. China cauliflower always tastes a little raw after cooking it and I realized the American version is a lot more tasty and doesn’t have a slightly raw and pungent odor when cooked. Most cauliflower rice in bowls can be kept really simple to just some aromatics like chopped onions and seasoning with just salt and pepper. I did add some spices to my cauliflower rice for fun and it tasted really good! This trip I travelled with a bunch of spices and even brought my hand chopper to break cauliflower florets down into rice-sized bits. Being Chinese I had to bring a little soy sauce bottle and oyster sauce as well…nothing like these condiments to make great stir fry! Salads are all very well but my Chinese belly needs cooked vegetables.
So here is my low carb fish bowl. Some suggestions for what a low carb build a bowl could look like at home:
– roasted/grilled fish, seared beef steak sliced thin, grilled chicken, stir-fried shrimp
– grilled zucchini, eggplant, squash or peppers, stir fried green vegetables like bok choy or Chinese cabbage
– some salad greens, tomatoes, radishes for the crunch
– cauliflower rice for the win! If not doing low carb, other grains like quinoa may be a nice base
– alternatively use the green lettuce or salad leaves as a base to make it a salad bowl
– chopped nuts (almond flakes, walnuts, pecans, cashew nuts), pine nuts or sunflower seeds
– grated cheese
– furikake (Japanese seaweed seasoning) or torn up seaweed or nori strips.
– if your different components are well seasoned you won’t need a gravy for the bowl, otherwise a bright salsa or a comforting brown gravy may make the bowl truly a comfort bowl!
Low Carb Fish Bowl
- 300g salmon fillet
- 1 medium Chinese eggplant or 3 small Japanese eggplants
- 1 small yellow zucchini
- half a head of cauliflower
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 hard boiled egg
- 1 tomato
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 220 deg C (425 deg F).
- Marinate the salmon with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and set aside.
- In the meantime, chop the onion, slice the zucchini into rounds and the eggplant into 1 inch chunks. Use a food processor or a chopper to chop the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces. Deseed the tomato and chop into 1 cm chunks.
- Toss the eggplant in 1/2 tbsp olive oil and lay out on a lined sheet pan and roast for 15 minutes. Remove, then toss in a bowl with the zucchini and 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp oyster sauce and some pepper. Lay out in one layer in the sheet pan on one side.
- Drizzle 1/2 tbsp olive oil over the salmon and place skin side down on the other side of the sheet pan. Pop the whole pan in and roast for 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the salmon). Set aside when done.
- Heat up the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium to high heat and saute the onions for 2 minutes till fragrant and transluscent. Add the cauliflower rice in with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes till the cauliflower is just cooked. Set aside.
- Chop the egg into smaller pieces. Toss the chopped tomato and parsley together with the egg.
- For plating, put half the cauliflower rice into each bowl, then top alternating rounds of zucchini and eggplant together with half the salmon and a scoop of the tomato-egg mixture. Enjoy!