Banh Mi Power Bowls (Gluten Free!)

One thing I’m loving about our new life in Ontario is the multiculturalism – and the food, by extension. Even the most mainstream grocery stores have a wide variety of interesting ingredients and prepared foods from around the globe. I can go grocery shopping, and hear 6+ different languages spoken, as I wander the aisles! LOVE IT.

There’s also an abundance of ethnic food available from restaurants. No exaggeration, you can find shawarma easier than a mainstream fast food chain: Shawarma places are everywhere, along with every other cuisine you can think of. There are several different places that specialize in banh me (Vietnamese sandwiches) AND deliver through the major services!

Our first few weeks here saw us eating banh mi on an almost daily basis. It was cheap, easy, full of good stuff, and was only $3-3.50 for a meal. Can’t beat it!

I’ve been getting more into making power bowls at home for meals lately. Combine that, with our love for banh mi, and the fact that our favourite place is a 15 minute drive away, and … today’s recipe was bound to happen. I’d seen mention of a banh mi bowl on social media, and decided to make my own take on the idea.

We eat a lot of chicken in this house, so that was the protein I chose. You can use whatever banh mi fillings you like, though. There’s a “dry” tofu that our fav Banh Mi place uses – we initially thought it was some kind of mushroom! – that we’ve since found at a local Asian grocery that would be great, sliced up over this. Use BBQ pork, or whatever else you like.

This makes a bit more pickled veggies than you’ll actually need for 4 servings. I like to use the extras to make actual banh mi, to put on other meals (they add a flavour punch to a variety of foods!), or just to munch on.

Also: To make this gluten-free, just be sure to use a GF soy sauce – it’s that easy!

Banh Mi Bowl

Serves 4

Pickled Veggies:

1 large carrot
1 small daikon radish
1 jalapeno
1 cup water
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt

Peel carrot and radish, slice jalapeno in half and remove the seeds (optional). Use a vegetable peeler to create long strips of the carrot. Even the smallest daikon radish is going to make a lot more strips than a large carrot, so I like to peel enough daikon to create about the same volume of strips as the carrot. Feel free to make more or less, depending on your tastes. Slice jalapeno into long, thin strips. Set vegetables aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Add carrot, radish, and jalapeno strips to this mixture, stir well to combine.

Cover bowl, refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Marinated Chicken:

2 large (or 3 medium) chicken breasts
1/4 cup soy sauce (Gluten-free if needed)
1-2 Tbsp ginger/garlic paste*
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1Tbsp Sriracha
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp fish sauce

* This is a paste I buy in jars, and use a lot when cooking Asian or Indian dishes. You can find it in Indian and/or Asian grocers, and sometimes in the Asian aisle of mainstream grocers. We use 2 Tbsp for a potent flavour, but you can cut it back to 1 Tbsp if you prefer more mild flavours.

Slice chicken into whatever form you prefer – strips, small cubes, etc – and place into a bowl or plastic baggie for marinating.

Whisk together soy sauce, ginger garlic paste, rice vinegar, Sriracha, brown sugar, and fish sauce. Pour over cut up chicken, stir well to coat. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

For serving:

3 1/4 cups chicken broth**
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ an English cucumber, sliced
Cilantro, chopped
Green onions
Sesame seeds

** Here in Canada, Campbell’s makes a “Thai” chicken broth, which is what we use for this. Regular chicken broth works just fine if you can’t get this, though!

To Assemble:

45 minutes before you want to serve it, cook the brown rice in the chicken broth.

When the rice is almost ready, use a slotted spoon to strain excess liquid off chicken (don’t throw out the marinade!), transferring chicken to a nonstick frying pan along with olive oil. Cook until browned, then add the leftover marinade and simmer for 2 minutes, or until chicken is cooked all the way through.

Divide rice among bowls. Top with cooked chicken, pickled veggies, cucumber, cilantro, and green onions. Drizzle with a little cooked marinade from the pan, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

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