Although there are many that have tried donburi, some may not know what this dish is. So… What is donburi?
Donburi 丼ぶり, simply put, is a traditional Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with some kind of meat and/or vegetables, fish, or eggs. The food items are lightly simmered in sauce and are best enjoyed fresh. Donburi literally means “bowl”.
This delightful entree started appearing in the 1870s, becoming a favorite amongst the Japanese for its filling yet cheap ingredients used. There are many varieties that are now popular in today’s culture, including Oyakodon (chicken and egg on rice) or Gyudon (beef and onion on rice). The sauces used with simmering these items depends on the region, style, or even the season in which it’s made. However, soy sauce or dashi is usually used in these sauces, though there are different varieties of soy sauce to choose from.
Most donburis are known to top the rice with so much food that none of the grains of rice show, but it’s totally fine if is some showing. Popular toppings on donburis include takuan (pickled daikon radish), fukujinzuke (red/brown pickled radish), sesame seeds, and green onions.
Not to be confused with a bento, donburi only consists of the rice bowl with its respective toppings, with possible pickled veggies on the side. Here are some examples of a few popular donburis:
Chukadon 中華丼: Meaning “Chinese style”, this donburi consists of stir fried veggies, meat, and seafood that is made with a savory thick sauce.
Popular ingredients in Chukadon include shrimp, cabbage, green onions, and baby corn.
Gyudon 牛丼: Meaning “Beef bowl”, this donburi consists of beef and onions, simmered and marinated in a sweet and savory soy sauce flavor. It is usually served with a little bit of red pickled ginger.
The beef used for Gyudon is rib eye, sliced very thinly. You can use sukiyaki meat or shabu shabu beef for a homemade Gyudon recipe!
Ikura Don いくら丼: Meaning “Salmon Roe bowl”, this donburi has ikura (salmon roe), shiso leaves, and rice, but as you can see in this photo, other varieties are used, including having salmon with this dish as well as some tsukemono (pickled veggies) on the side.
For those that don’t know, ikura (salmon roe) is best enjoyed cold, but with hot rice.
Kare Don カレー丼: Meaning “Curry bowl”, this donburi features a thick curry sauce, usually with beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions on top of rice. Red pickled ginger usually accompanies this dish.
Kare don is enjoyed as an entree, but also can be used to accompany Udon as a side dish.
Katsu Don カツ丼: Meaning “Fried Cutlet bowl”, the donburi can either be made with pork katsu or chicken katsu with simmered onions and eggs on top of rice.
This bowl is greatly enjoyed hot and steaming, and can be used to accompany Udon as a side dish.
Maguro Don マグロ丼: Meaning “Tuna bowl”, this donburi consists of tuna sashimi on top of rice, along with toppings including nori (seaweed), wasabi, sesame seeds, or green onions.
The tuna can either be served with or without being marinated, and is enjoyed slightly cold.
Oyakodon 親子丼: Oya meaning “parent” and ko meaning “child”, Oyakodon consists of chicken and egg on top of rice, simmered in a sweet and savory soy sauce. Accompanying the proteins is usually onions.
Just like Kare don and Katsu don, Oyakodon can be enjoyed as a side dish alongside Udon.
Soboro Don そぼろ丼: Meaning “Minced chicken with egg bowl”, it is almost similar to Oyakodon in ingredients, but is prepared a different way. Usually served with green peas or green onions alongside the meat and egg, soboro don is best served hot.
Of the two, Soboro don is not as popular as Oyakodon, but is still tasty!
Ten Don 天丼: Meaning “Tempura (deep fried veg/seafood) bowl”, this donburi consists of several pieces of tempura with drizzled sweet, thick soy sauce on top.
Just like the donburis mentioned above, Ten don can be used as a side dish to Udon.
Una Don 鰻丼: Meaning “Eel bowl”, una is short for “unagi” and consists of grilled eel with a sweet, thick sauce that is lightly topped with sansho powder (dried Sichuan pepper). This dish can accompany Udon (like a lot of the donburis!).
Fun Fact: Una Don is popular in the summertime, because this is when eel fishing is at an all-time high, and there are speculations amongst the Japanese that eating eel during hot weather is good for you!