Asian Style Bowls

This recipe first appeared on the CAFE newsletter in April 2020

Recipe and words by Amanda Callahan, edited by Ellie Sharp

The “bowl” has become one of the easiest, tastiest and most versatile ways to get a satisfying dinner on the table. You can customize a bowl menu to your family’s taste — Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean — and the combinations within each profile are endless. I try to prepare everything in one pan for easy cleanup. And, if you plan ahead and chop ingredients ahead of time, this meal is usually ready in about 30 minutes. Provided here is my Here’s a super-simple take on an Asian-style bowl. 

First, start with a protein base. I like to use ground pork (pictured), but any ground meat will work well. Chicken and turkey are lovely! If you don’t have ground meat, use finely chopped or sliced chicken breast. I haven’t tried meat substitutes like crumbled soy, “scrambled” tofu or Beyond beef products, but I imagine even they would soak up the delicious Asian flavored sauce, too.

Asian greens are superb AND in season right now — perfect for this dish! Varieties like mizuna, and bok choy are ideal, but feel free to experiment with what you like or want to try. Kale is a good option as is a 50/50 mix of spinach and dandelion greens. Endive, mustard and arugula will all be delicious, too. If you prefer to stick with an old favorite, you can use classic cabbage.

A final note on seasonings: this is a great chance to use that bottle of Asian sauce or seasoning you bought for that one recipe that one time and is now hiding in the back of the fridge or pantry. Mirin, hoisin, and miso would all be exquisite. This recipe is just a template for basic Asian flavors using standard pantry ingredients. But go wild and experiment with what you’ve got! I have a bottle of pickle wine (!?!?). It definitely makes it into my Asian bowls.

I just can’t get enough of the amazing local mushrooms currently available and those are the next essential ingredient in my bowls. Any mushroom will do! Don’t like mushrooms? You can use a umami, flavor packed substitution such as frozen shelled edamame or cook broccoli, green beans, or asparagus over high heat with soy sauce until crisped on the edges. In the summertime, eggplant is my favorite to include. 

Ingredients:

  • 3-6 TB high heat tolerant oil, divided (examples: coconut, avocado, canola)
  • 1 small onion, minced (scallions are a great substitute but don’t need to cook as long!)
  • 1 rounded TB grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 lb ground meat or meat substitute
  • 3 TB good quality soy sauce or tamari* see note at the bottom
  • 1 tspn. Asian chili paste or sriracha (more if you like it spicy!)
  • 2 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tspn. Honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tspn. sesame oil
  • 12 oz. oyster or shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or any fresh mushrooms you like)
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • Splash of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 large bunch of greens (such as bok choy, pictured)
  • Salt and pepper
  • For serving: rice or cauliflower rice, ½ cup kimchi, sriracha, sesame seeds, scallions

Directions:

  1. Over medium high heat, melt 1TB oil and add the onion and ginger. Saute for about two minutes. Add the meat. Break up the meat and disperse among onions. When the meat is almost done and there’s a bit of pink left, add ⅔ of your minced garlic. Incorporate well. 
  2. Turn heat down to low and add soy, chili paste, vinegar and maple syrup. Combine well and cook for a few minutes. Add the sesame oil and turn off the heat. Dump meat mixture into a separate bowl and keep warm. 
  3. Using the same pan, heat 2 TB oil over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms release their juices. The mushrooms will soak up all the oil. If needed, and the pan gets too dry and mushrooms start to burn, you can add more oil. After about six to eight minutes, the mushrooms should start to look juicy. Add the soy sauce, vinegar and reserved ⅓ minced garlic. Cook for another minute or two. Taste for seasoning (I needed to add a pinch of salt and pepper). Move mushrooms to a small bowl and keep warm.
  4. Heat another 1 TB oil in a pan over medium high heat and add greens. Cook over high heat to slightly wilt and brown around the edges. Lightly salt and pepper. Add mushrooms back in and heat back up. Turn heat off. Taste for seasonings again and adjust to taste. 
  5. To serve, divide the rice, meat and veggies into bowls and top with kimchi, extra sriracha and sesame seeds. 

* I use a super high quality mushroom flavored soy sauce that is found in Asian grocery stores. The best local grocery substitute will be tamari. However, if all you have is soy sauce, you may find you need to use more with a bit more sweetener, too. You might also find that your meat won’t be dark and sticky like mine pictured. If you like that texture/flavor profile, you might find that adding some hoisin sauce will do that trick as well!