No one is happier about the rise of ramen, pho and other noodle dishes than Lukas Volger. The Brooklyn-based chef and blogger recently released “Bowl,” his vegetarian cookbook full of recipes for ramen, bibimbap, pho and our new obsession, dumpling bowls. We chatted with him while he took a break from slurping.
D.C. loves its fast-casual restaurants, many of which serve food in bowls. What gives?
First off, bowls lend themselves toward a healthful style of eating: Your entire complete meal is in one vessel. The bowl itself is very comforting to eat out of — you can curl yourself around it, and it’s well-suited for solo eating. I think Instagram plays into it, too. Food in bowls looks good on Instagram.
How do you achieve rich broths using only veggies? I’m skeptical.
It starts with good ingredients. With pho, you have to be careful not to overload the broth with sweet vegetables, like carrots and onions. Adding meat to pho provides a safety net and helps with balance, but a vegetable-based broth is a more delicate thing. With ramen, it’s the dashi [a Japanese broth]. It’s so rich and has umami flavor. Or I’ll enrich it with soy milk for richness.
Can you tell us a favorite cooking tip from the book?
Always rinse ramen noodles after cooking them. That removes the excess starch and gives them that slippery, slurpery quality.
With the ramen recipes, it all depends on what kind of meat. I will say bowls are really convenient for leftover meat. A nice canned tuna or salmon would work for the recipes in the grains bowl chapter. I wouldn’t put meat in the pho because it’s already a delicate balance.
Can anyone cook these recipes?
I always assume the reader is starting at zero. I try to be as comprehensive as possible. They read long, but I don’t want to assume the reader knows something. Bowls lend themselves to beginner cooks because everything is cooked in components. You’ve got your prepared sauces, your chopped cucumber and so on. You can assemble everything at once.
Do you have a favorite bowl you like to eat out of at home?
I do now. Our photographer, Michael [Harlan Turkell], scouted amazing locally made ceramic bowls. They’re so beautiful and now I’m a total purist about the bowls that come into my house. It makes the food taste better.
You may also like: