The Trick To A Better Rice Bowl Is Aggressively Seasoned Toppings

Rice bowls might be one of the most versatile meals you can make in a pinch. A simple version with a few toppings on a hot bowl of rice takes about a half-hour to make. However, since the highlight of this dish is its relatively mild-flavored grain base, it can be easy to end up with a bland meal — or if you use too many toppings, the rice will be overwhelmed. Your toppings need to carry enough flavor to counteract the plainness of the rice.

The key is to aggressively season your ingredients, so that they taste almost overpowering on their own. Strongly-flavored sauces such as soy sauce, gochujang, and teriyaki are a great way to accomplish this, and they complement beef, chicken, and even tofu as well. Otherwise, a hefty amount of salt, pepper, sesame oil, or garlic powder should do the trick. Korean bibimbap is the perfect example of a well-seasoned rice bowl, pairing a fried egg with bean sprouts, sweet and salty beef bulgogi, pickled greens, mushrooms, and sautéed spinach.

In your own bowl, try combining a variety of rich, hot, sour, and savory ingredients. If most of your toppings are mild, add flavorings on your own. If you're unsure of what you should put over your bowl, start by selecting a meat or protein and two complementary greens. Fresh herbs, chilies, and scallions are great garnishes, but you could also double up on the protein or vegetables to make your meal even more filling.

Other tips for building a better rice bowl

When eating a rice bowl, you should be able to dive in with chopsticks (or a single utensil) without having to cut up any ingredients. You'll want to chop all your toppings into small morsels before putting them over rice. If you're planning on taking your food to-go, this will keep you from having to pack a knife, too.

The type of rice you use in your bowl also matters greatly, as this grain varies widely in flavor and texture. Short-grain white sushi rice or more filling brown rice are classic choices, but you can easily use arborio, basmati, or even jasmine rice to match the flavors of your toppings. Most bowls utilize sushi rice, due to its natural ability to stick together, making it easy and neat to pick up with chopsticks. If you prefer fluffier rice, add a bit of lemon juice to the water you use to cook your grains. Quinoa and couscous work excellently as an alternative for a rice bowl, as they are both mild-flavored grains.

If you're looking to make a bowl in a flash, use frozen rice as a shortcut to a quick meal. This convenient grocery store staple (or the DIY version) defrosts in the microwave in just about three minutes, making it much faster then cooking rice fresh. Just remember to sprinkle in a few teaspoons of water before heating it up, as this will keep the heat from drying out your rice.