Grain bowls and how they became a thing

As I am slowly but surely (and unfortunately) approaching my return to work date, I am also weaning myself off of my sixth pump per day, and that sixth one is my middle of the night pump. And as I wean myself off of pumps, I am also slowly but surely returning to my old self before having a baby, as in, I actually have interests outside of my baby that I’d like to revisit. I want to read books. I want to cook and research different things I want to make. These are all the things I used to do before I had a baby. My mind is slowly but surely becoming clearer so that I can think about these things more often once again.

One of the things that I have been prepping over the last few days has been bibimbap, which is just Korean for “mixed rice.” Traditionally, it is just a dish that Korean moms would whip up when they had random odds and ends in their fridge and needed to clean out leftovers. Of course, as with many of these types of things, it ended up becoming a very popular dish in Korean restaurants. The traditional components of what goes in it include: beef, spinach, bean sprouts, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, rice, and a gochuchang-based sauce to bring it all together. You can also top it with a fried egg. And in restaurants, it is often times served in a hot stone bowl, which creates a nice crunchy rice bottom that I absolutely love. 

Well, as I was prepping all of these ingredients in a combination of blanching in hot water, roasting in the oven, and sautéing on the stove, I realized that this dish is basically like the OG grain bowl. Or, when you think about it, what Asians eat traditionally are basically what grain bowls are based on; it’s just that what Asians eat in terms of how it sounds does not sound that exciting to the western mind. It needed to be branded as a “grain bowl“ in order to sell… To non-Asian people. Because what is it that we eat as Asians: mostly a lot of different dishes that can be poached or stir-fried or sauteed and then combined in a sauce with rice.

Rice is the basis of what most of us eat. And rice is just another grain. There is absolutely nothing new about this. The only thing that is new about grain bowls and them being sold in restaurants is the fact that they are now branded by non-Asian people to sell to non-Asian people. And when I think about it, I just think it’s a little bit ridiculous that people think this is some new thing that is so cool and trendy. Whenever I see grain bowls advertised on signs or in front of fast-casual lunch type restaurants in business areas, I just cringe a little bit and laugh to myself.

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