What is a Buddha bowl and how to truly appreciate your food

If you’re a food trend follower you’ve probably come across something called a “Buddha bowl”. Modern food culture has interpreted this as a nourishing, all-in-one meal in a bowl; fast food for the health-conscious. But there’s far more to this trend and it could change the way you look at food.


Don’t feel like reading? You can also listen to this article on what a buddha bowl is and how to truly appreciate your food, via our Crumbs Podcast channel.

In traditional Japanese culture there is a meditative form of eating called Ōryōki. It translates as ‘just enough’ and emphasises the practice of mindfulness.

Zen teachers say that taking meals with Ōryōki cultivates gratitude, mindfulness, and a better understanding of the self. Mindful eating is a cure to the way we are living these days.

But why has eating mindfully become so difficult?

I love little more than cooking and so whenever I’m in the kitchen I put real effort and careful attention into making sure that my meals are full of flavour and lovely to look at. But a few times a week I look down and suddenly realise that my plate is nearly empty and–I haven’t actually tasted a thing. Most of us live distracted lives. Every moment in our day is filled with thoughts of the things we wish we were doing, situations we’re worried about or a list we have to tick off.

Even when we are sitting still, our minds are never quiet. I have also come to realise that I have fallen into the terrible habit of always arranging some sort of entertainment for myself before I eat. Whether it’s reading a magazine, scrolling through social media, or catching up on my favourite series, I am never just enjoying the meal that I’ve prepared. Eating is no longer the main event; it has become a sideline. When last did you sit and just take in the moment, appreciate the view, or relish the task at hand? We are losing the ability to just be; to live a present life.


So what is a Buddha bowl and how can it help?

Traditionally, an Ōryōki set consists of three nested bowls called Jihatsu. The largest bowl is referred to as the Buddha bowl or Zuhatsu and symbolises Buddha’s head and his wisdom.

How to take meals with Ōryōki

The word Ōryōki is comprised of three Sino-Japanese characters, each of which is symbolic in the way a meal is approached and has a lot to teach us about bringing mindfulness into our lives.

応 ō, symbolises the receiver’s response to the offering of food

This is all about being grateful for and mindful of what you are eating. Just spend a minute or two appreciating the beautiful food in front of you and being thankful you even have it to eat.

  • Taste every bite–really taste it–and you’ll appreciate all the thought and care that has gone into it.
  • Also give thought to where your food has come from.
  • Make the effort to shop from local, ethical suppliers or grow your own and share your surplus with those in need.


量 ryō, symbolises a measure or amount received

Modern food advertises bigger pizzas and burgers than you can fit in your mouth and presents extravagant harvest tables overflowing with food, but how much do we really need? The flavours and aromas of a well-cooked meal are often too quickly forgotten when you’re so full that you could burst.

  • Eating just enough always leaves you feeling perfectly satisfied in every way.
  • How much you are throwing away? Smell it, taste it before you dispose of food based on an expiry date. Most retailers set their expiry dates weeks before the food actually goes off.
  • Use as much of every food as you can. Use the stems of your herbs for pestos, parmesan rinds to flavour soups and zest your lemons before you juice them.

Squash soup

器 ki, symbolises the bowl

Eating should be a ceremony, something we take time over. It should be a feast for all our senses.

  • Take a few minutes to consider how the bowl feels in your hand. Is it hot or cool to the touch? Is it smooth or rough? Choose bowls and plates that are beautiful or bring back memories.
  • A Buddha bowl, by design, brings all of your senses together and centres your attention on the food you are about to eat. No side plates, no under plates, no extra cutlery, not even a table–just your meal in your hand.


Practising mindfulness in your everyday life takes exactly that–practise–but it doesn’t have to take extra time. Take one meal a day to apply the principles of Ōryōki. The concept of the Buddha bowl may be a very trendy topic in the food world and although, like all trends, this will fade making way for others, its premise is one that you can easily adopt.

Holding a meal, lovingly and carefully prepared, in your hand, is a gift. Feel the comforting warmth and weight of the bowl, bring it to your nose and smell the spices that draw out subtle flavours and take the time to savour each mouthful as you eat. Food has the power to delight, amaze, even heal and embracing the essence of the Buddha bowl is the perfect way to enjoy and appreciate it.

Inspired to eat mindfully and still in search of your perfect Buddha bowl? Check out our collection of beautiful serving bowls here.