Lukas Volger is the founder of Made by Lukas, a line of fresh veggie burgers established in 2013, the editorial director of Jarry Magazine, and the author of three cookbooks including the new cookbook Bowl: Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and Other One-Dish Meals.
Lukas isn't strictly vegan or vegetarian, but he likes to cook vegetarian at home for himself or for friends, and often those meals are eaten out of bowls. Here are a few of the reasons why:
1) Vegetarian eating can be much cheaper! Hearty, whole meals using ingredients like organic vegetables, grains, and legumes can be filling and chock full of high-quality ingredients for much less than it costs to buy sustainably sourced, healthily processed meat and poultry. And the environmental impacts of eating vegetarian for at least some meals can be significant. Meat production uses many times more energy.
2) Drawing inspiration from Japanese, Korean, Indian, and other cuisines in many of his vegetarian creations, Lukas notes that meals in bowls lend themselves to a whole food style of eating that includes lots of vegetables. The various components of dishes like ramen, bibimbap, and pho provide a framework for meals that use up leftovers and are easily customizable. Bowls are also comforting: they lend themselves to meals for one as well as big family-style dinners.
3) Speaking of those various components in many of the dishes in Bowl, there are a few things you can do on a weekend to prep those components and then use them throughout the week. Lukas often cooks a big pot of farro or brown rice and a batch of hardboiled eggs. He also suggests buying a bunch of greens from the farmers' market, steaming or sauteeing them, and then marinating them with a bit of olive oil, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest, which extends their shelf life by at least a few days.
4) When planning dinner parties, Lukas turns to East Asian cuisines for solutions that work well for many dietary considerations. Dishes like Vietnamese pho, which includes gluten-free rice noodles, can be easily customized to meet different preferences and nutritional needs. In ramen and bibimbap, include an egg, or don't. Crispy fried shallots, roasted squash, and marinated greens are crowd-pleasers that fit many dietary approaches.
Image courtesy of Cara Howe.