Have you ever heard of the flavor umami before? If you haven’t– it is a game changer. Umami is a category of taste–just like sweet, sour, salt and bitter. It is described as the savory taste (aka indescribable yumminess). More technically speaking, umami corresponds to glutamate, a type of amino acid, that is present in many foods such as meat, cheese, and various vegetables.
I was recently inspired by the book Flavor Bombs by Adam Fleischman, the man who founded the restaurant Umami Burger. Since my brother lives in Los Angeles, he was able to get Adam to sign the book, where Adam wrote, “Always stay happy in the kitchen! Friends always can taste it.” In this book, he describes foods and recipes that are umami-rich and provide amazing flavor when cooking. Thus after reading this text, I decided it was time for me to pay respect to this mythical fifth taste.
Buddha Bowls have been popular for a number of years now. They are beautiful and quite simple, typically consisting of grains, vegetables protein, and toppings. These bowls are awesome because they provide whole grains and fiber–which helps keep you fuller longer and aids with digestion; a mixture of vegetables–which provides great, varied nutrients; and protein–which is involved in nearly every biochemical process in our bodies.
For this recipe, I decided to make a Buddha Bowl with an Asian, umami flare. And lemme tell you, this peanut sauce is LIQUID GOLD. Along with this recipe being delcious, it is also super flexible. Instead of using brown rice, you could use quinoa, barley, or another grain of choice. If you are sick of your typical chicken, try using beef instead. Or if you are seeking a vegan option, try tofu in place of the chicken for some plant-based protein. If you don’t have the same vegetables on hand, don’t fret. You can use whatever veggies you have in your fridge or find at your local farmers’ market. Try using kale, cucumbers, mixed greens, snap peas, sweet potatoes or any other favorite combos. As a general rule of thumb, you should have about 6-7 cups of vegetables for 4 servings. However, the nutrition major in me says, “The more veggies the better!”
In the recipe below, the following ingredients provide umami: garlic, chicken, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, green onions, soy sauce, and ginger. Curious about what other foods are umami? Click here to view a chart of the basic umami foods.
Thai Peanut Umami Buddha Bowl
- 1 cup brown rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic grated
- 1 pound chicken breast sliced into 1/4” to 1/2” strips
- 3 cups broccoli cut into florets (about 1 small head)
- 1 cup carrots julienned or shredded
- 1 cup red pepper thinly sliced (about 1 small pepper)
- 1 cup cabbage chopped or shredded
- 1 avocado sliced
- 1/4 cup green onions chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts roughly chopped
Peanut Sauce: (makes about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter*
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice about 1/2 large lime
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari if gluten free)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sriracha or more as desied
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger grated
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- 1/8 cup water
- Put brown rice into a pot and cover with 2 cups water. Once water comes to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 40 minutes until cooked through.
- While rice is cooking, add all sauce ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Add more water, if necessary, to achieve desired consistency. Set peanut sauce aside for later.
- Heat large pan over high heat and then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and garlic. Add broccoli, carrots and red pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly tender but still crunchy. Set vegetables aside in a bowl.
- Using the same pan over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle chicken with salt, then add chicken to pan and cook for 2 minutes each side, or until cooked through. Set aside in another bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of peanut sauce.
- To assemble bowls, divide rice among four bowls and top with chicken, vegetables, cabbage, and avocado. Sprinkle with cilantro, green onions, peanuts and drizzle sauce on top. Mix and enjoy!