Banh Mi Rice Bowls

Banh Mi Rice Bowls |

Despite my best attempts to expose my kids to the widest possible variety of foods and flavours, I have been blessed with a “particular” eater. There was a time when the Bean (now 4 years old) would eat just about anything I put onto her plate. And yes I gloated (if only silently), figuring I had done something pretty right-on in the kid-feeding department.

But I gloated too soon, apparently, because these days I’m lucky if she eats a plate of pasta and tomato sauce without asking me to “wash off” the sauce.

I recently asked her to name her 10 favourite dinners, hoping that the answer would help guide my weekly meal planning and reduce my mounting frustration. Her response went something like this: “Um. Pasta with butter and cheese. Toast with butter. Salmon sushi. Rice. And I don’t know.”


Banh Mi Rice Bowls |

As if it weren’t difficult enough to accommodate a lactose intolerant carbophobe (Kiwi) and a toddler with allergies to wheat, eggs and peanuts, now I’ve got a 4 year old who intends to subsist on pasta, bread, butter, rice and raw fish.

Experienced parents out there: this is temporary, right? In six months, she will be eating grilled octopus and braised fennel like a champion—right?

While I wait for her to come around (any day now, kid), I’m trying to make sure that each meal I make has at least one thing she will eat. I’m not willing to cater to her whims, but I don’t want her to go to bed on an empty stomach either.

Because I know she will always eat rice, a “build-your-own” rice bowl type thing works really well. She gets her rice, as well as the toppings that appeal to her on that particular day (which is anyone’s guess), and we get the semblance of a delicious, normal, adult meal.

Banh Mi Rice Bowls |

You can “rice bowl” just about anything. Some of the favourites around here: curried chick peas, yogurt, cilantro and diced cucumber; pulled pork, avocado, sour cream, diced tomatoes and shredded cabbage; steamed veggies, tofu and “peanut” sauce; and these Banh Mi Rice Bowls.

I use the term “Banh Mi” rather loosely and unauthentically here. “Banh Mi” actually means bread, though it has become synonymous with the flavourful Banh Mi sandwich—a Vietnamese-style sub sandwich, stuffed with some kind of chicken or meat, fresh vegetables and herbs and pickled carrots.

These bowls are banh mi inspired, I guess you could say: a bed of rice topped with a quick ground beef and mushroom stir fry, cilantro, mint, cucumber, pickled carrots, lime juice and green onions.

The recipe looks more complicated than it is. While there are a few steps involved, the whole thing takes no more than about 35 minutes. Definitely quick enough for a weeknight.

If I have a bit of extra time, I like to double the meat mixture and stash half in the deep freeze for a rainy day, or save it for quick weekday lunches. If you aren’t crazy about eating a big bowl of rice at mid-day, you can wrap everything up in a crisp lettuce leaf instead.

Banh Mi Rice Bowls |

5.0 from 1 reviews
Banh Mi Rice Bowls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
For the beef:
  • ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ pound (227 grams) white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Sesame seeds and green onions to garnish (optional)
For the pickled carrots:
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
For the bowls:
  • Cooked rice
  • Pickled carrots
  • Sliced jalapeno peppers
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Green onions
  • Lime wedges
  • Cucumber
For the beef:
  1. Combine the tamari/soy sauce, ginger, honey and sesame oil in a small bowl.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the ground beef is mostly browned. Stir in the mushrooms and garlic and continue to cook until the mushrooms are very soft.
  3. Stir in the tamari mixture and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes, or until the sauce is syrupy and the meat is fully cooked. Transfer the beef to a bowl and garnish with sesame seeds (optional) and green onions.
For the pickled carrots:
  1. Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Put the carrots in a medium-sized bowl and pour the hot vinegar mixture overtop.
  3. Let the carrots stand until they are cooled to room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before serving.
For the bowls:
  1. Arrange the rice, beef and toppings in small bowls on a large serving platter or cutting board and let everyone assemble their own bowls.


14 Responses to Banh Mi Rice Bowls

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  3. Jessica January 12, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    these look amazing! I just ordered some daikon radish is to be delivered tomorrow because I was having a bánh mì craving. I’ve never tried to rice bowl them but will definitely give this a try. And yes I think all of our kids’ pickiness will float away someday. The allergies? Oh dear I hope so. Along with lauren’s nut and seed allergies we just went dairy/gluten free this month for eczema reasons. These kiddos are giving us a run for our money 😉 Xox

  4. Alissa September 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    These look amazing! I think my picky eaters would gobble them up as well. We do a lot of “build your own” items – taco bar, rice&bean bowls, salad bar, even pasta with a choice of toppings – for exactly the same reason. Adults get to add all the things and kids get to add what strikes their fancy. And, they do seem to eat more when they have a “say” in what goes on their plate.

    One tip that has helped my picky eaters: I did the same as you, asking about their favorite dinners. We wrote them on a KIDS FAVORITE list, and I asked them to help me make the list longer by telling me when we have a dinner that they like. Our list is now pretty long, and we have a deal that at least one dinner per week will be something off the kids favorite list. Seems to help them manage the meals they don’t care for – that reminder that KIDS FAVORITE is coming later in the week.

  5. Kathleen | HapaNomNom August 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    You are singing my favorite tune with this dish! I am a diehard fan of anything banh mi! I seriously can’t get enough – it’s like an addiction! And how cool is it that your little one enjoys it too! She’s got good tastes… even if she’s in a picky-eater phase 😉

  6. Adriana August 1, 2015 at 2:18 am #

    This looks like a great way to please everyone, and delicious too. I have a picky eater at home too…of course, he is in his 40’s…

    I could see serving this to a group for a summer get together too!

  7. Sondi July 31, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

    I basically ate bread and water until I was in my 20s. I was the pickiest child ever and didn’t like anything except for carbs and sweets. If it makes you feel any better, as a four-year-old I wouldn’t have eaten anything in these rice bowls. So your daughter is a gastronomical adventurer compared to my four-year-old self! 🙂

  8. Aimee @ Simple Bites July 31, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    We ended up making rice bowls on our family reunion because it was such a fast and easy way to feed everyone – and people could customize to suit their tastes.

  9. Sofia // From the Land we Live on July 31, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    I’ve never had a Bahn Mi sandwich…is that even allowed? I’ll have to try it in the form of your delicious looking bowl…I like things better without the bread anyway, definitions aside. Gorgeous!

  10. Jennifer Andrews July 31, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

    This rice bowl looks absolutely delicious and is the perfect way to customize dinner for different tastes. I was a very picky eater up until I was in my late teens (so basically until university) and it baffled my mom and family for years. Foods just tasted really strongly to me and certain textures were so unappetizing that for the longest time I would only eat white bread, cheese, potatoes, pasta with a tiny bit of tomato sauce (NEVER chunky), chicken noodle soup, etc. Gradually I added iceberg lettuce salads (no dressing) with croutons and cheddar cheese cubes, and then small vegetables in pasta. It’s so strange thinking about it now because at 29 I’ll eat absolutely ANYTHING. In fact, cooking and experimenting with food is one of my favourite hobbies. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. With many cases of picky eating, the kid truly can’t help it. Anyway, great post!

  11. Teresa July 31, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

    I love bánh mì and translating the concept into a rice bowl sounds like wonderful summer eating. My sisters kids were all natural vegetarians when they were little – they’d eat anything but meat, which was awkward because my brother-in-law did all the cooking and concentrated on meals like ribs and steak.

    So glad my post came at the right time for you, by the way! You’ll have to let me know which ones you tried. And if you get hungry while you’re in the area, I have a couple of restaurant suggestions.

    On Commercial, Kin Kao (Venables & Commercial) has some of the best Thai in the city. La Mezcaleria (Graveley & Commercial) does wonderful Mexican and has just started a great weekend brunch menu, too. Biercraft (William & Commercial) obviously has a focus on beer, but their menu is really good.

    On East Hastings, there are a lot of wonderful new restaurants, with more opening all the time. Tamam (Penticton & Hastings) does really wonderful Palestinian food. Campagnolo Roma (Garden & Hastings) is a great Italian place. Bistro Wagon Rouge (Powell & Victoria) is the sister restaurant to the TV-famous Red Wagon (also good) and does French bistro fare. Kessel & March (Powell & Commercial) has a rotating, beautifully presented, inventive bistro menu and a wonderful brunch.

    As you can see, I’m a bit of a neighbourhood booster. Hope you have a wonderful time in Vancouver!

  12. janet @ the taste space July 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    I don’t envy you in the slightest. Build your own dinner adventure seems like the only say to please everyone. With that being said, I think your bowls look delicious.

  13. Janice @Kitchen Heals Soul July 31, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    My brother went through a long phase where it seemed like he wouldn’t eat anything for dinner. Even “chicken, french fries & gravy” became a no-no in his books. It was a struggle when he would reject even his favourite meals, but he did grow out of it. I totally agree that catering to a troubled eater isn’t ideal, but like you said, you don’t want them to starve either! I think it’s a phase and I’m sure you are doing everything right!

    I love rice bowls, and rice, so this is my ideal meal. I hope the Bean keeps enjoying it 😉

  14. Alanna @ One Tough Cookie July 31, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    I love the idea of this rice bowl! I happen to be a huge fan of Bahn Mi, but don’t always need the giant loaf of bread that accompanies it. The idea of wrapping these in lettuce is a terrific alternative!

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