Recipes for Health: Vegetarian Bowls Spiked With Vibrant Asian Flavors
Lukas Volger is a vegetarian cookbook author I have long admired, ever since he reversed my veggie burger cynicism with his 2010 cookbook, “Veggie Burgers Every Which Way.” He is a master at creating attractive vegetarian and vegan meals that are put together with a light hand but that fill you up.
This is certainly the case with his latest book, “Bowl.” The book’s subtitle, “Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and Other One-Dish Meals,” pretty well defines the breakdown of the chapters, with many pleasing, bright variations on each theme.
His dumpling-bowl chapter offers more than a dozen recipes for vegetarian dumplings and open-faced shumai, followed by an array of vehicles for them: won-ton or miso soup, stir-fried rice, grain bowls, green salads dressed with honey soy vinaigrette.
I would happily top the stir-fried bok choy and rice with spicy carrot dumplings, which are filled with a mix of steamed carrots, jalapeño, scallions, garlic, lime juice, cilantro and roasted peanuts.
With some exceptions, the palate here is decidedly Asian, true to the origins of many of these bowls. The book provides us with a pantry of Asian ingredients, both store-bought and homemade, that is realistic for the shelf space in a Brooklyn apartment kitchen but extensive enough to cover all of his recipe requirements.
He knows just when to pump up the flavor of a quiet mixture of noodles or grains and vegetables, be it with a spicy Korean fermented chile paste (gochujang), an Indonesian garlic chile paste (sambal oelek), a sweet and spicy Japanese chile-infused oil (rayu), a quickly fermented kimchi, or pounded ginger pulp.
In these recipes, he roasts squash, shiitakes and broccoli rabe in a sweet and spicy mix of soy, chile paste, sugar and oil for a winter bibimbap, and perks up a delicate spring ramen with pounded or grated ginger and lemon zest. Both dishes use condiments to great effect, a hallmark of Mr. Volger’s cooking.