The Surprising History Behind the Buddha Bowl Trend You’re Seeing Everywhere

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Since New York’s original raw food–restaurant, Quintessence, opened its doors in 1999, it’s been serving up Buddha Bowls.

“We’ve had them on the menu since day one,” says cofounder and head of operations, Mun Chan. “They’re basically a mixture of mesclun, kale and romaine lettuce served in a big bowl with plenty of room for the customer to add a variety of toppings to create their own unique salad.”

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Now the dish is having a big-time moment—joining other popular “bowls” like smoothie, acai and poke on the social-media circuit. One quick search on Instagram shows colorful bowls boasting healthy toppings like other veggies, grains, protein, fats and seeds (for starters), but Chan points out they’ve been around for a long time. “The serving bowl is actually called the Buddhist Monk’s Beggar Bowl. In the old days, the monks used this bowl to beg for left overs from people. Hence the name ‘Buddha Bowl.’”

“It’s a very popular item, more so during spring and summer. Customers love a big bowl of greens, plus they can choose whatever they want to go with it,” Chan says and adds that she thinks we’re going to see more of a boom in the bowls in the coming months. “The concept is already happening at salad bars, but not yet found on most restaurants’ menus.”


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