I first fell in love with acai bowls last year on my venture to Southern California. We were at Huntington Beach and my LA native friend made it our first stop of the day, gushing "YOU WILL TOTALLY LOVE THIS PLACE". She knows me well because I loved it indeed, along with the rest of Huntington Beach - the line to get one was out the door, there was boxes of banana piled up heavy and ready for the masses, and everyone with one in their hand looked so darn happy - no further marketing needed. When my acai bowl finally came out it was decorated so pretty, a medley of colourful fresh fruit, coconut and golden bee pollen, I sort of sat frozen staring at it for a few seconds. Taste wise, it was fresh and light, yet surprisingly satisfying - the ultimate summery breakfast. I really didn't want to be that annoying person who starts snapping photos of her food at all angles and heights, but I did. See photo attached.
Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE), is a small dark purple grape-like berry that grows on acai palms, which are mostly native to Brazil. As an ingredient it's often sold as either frozen fruit pulp, or freeze-dried powder, which can then be blended (often with fresh fruit) to make the smooth fruity dessert-like breakfast, known as an acai bowl. This has a consistency that's kind of in-between a soft-serve ice cream or a really, really thick smoothie, and is typically served with an array of tasty toppings sprinkled across it's purple surface - extra fresh fruit, crunchy granola, coconut chips or nut butter. Although the acai berry has been a traditional staple food for Amazonian tribes (where it commonly grows) for centuries, in more recent years it's been gaining mass popularity, with a rapidly growing global demand, that now sees it being cultivated in much larger amounts.
The wee acai berry has a diverse and interesting nutritional content - for a fruit it's high in healthy fats, a good source of dietary fibre, and most notably is a superb source of antioxidants, which help to minimise cell-damaging free-radicals. Antioxidants are sort of like the police, whilst free-radicals are the baddies, and they run around pairing up with free-radicals, restoring balance within the mean streets of our body. Because of it's antioxidant abilities acai berries are often coined a "superfood" - I'm not the biggest fan of the term, as I find it a little exploited in food marketing (and eating a range of colourful fruit and vegetables is the best way to get a good range of antioxidants, rather then celebrating one fruit), however I do enjoy acai powder, and love using it to make acai bowls. As for where to buy the products from - I find most health shops/supermarkets will stock them.
My acai bowl recipe is a variation on more traditional recipes or how it's commonly served - I like to blend with avocado to bump up the healthy fat content, and will often add a scoop of protein powder. This makes it more satisfying as a breakfast, otherwise I'll get hungry not long after - blended fruit doesn't keep us all that full. There's a huge amount of variation in how you want to serve your acai bowl though - try out different liquids, combinations of frozen fruit or toppings. Make it your own!
1 cup liquid of choice (almond/rice milk or coconut water)
1/2 cup frozen berries
1 frozen banana
2 tbsp freeze-dried acai powder
To blend: 1 serving of protein powder, 1 handful of leafy greens or 1 tbsp nut butter
To top: nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, nutty granola/muesli, cacao nibs or coconut chips.
1. Add all ingredients to the blender and blitz until thick and smooth.
2. Pour into a bowl and sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. Dig in!