Whether you are in a restaurant or cooking at home, donburi (丼 or 丼ぶり) is a flavorful Japanese dish that is enjoyed around the world.
Donburi, which directly translates to the word bowl, is a Japanese rice bowl where cooked rice is topped with meat, seafood, egg, and/or vegetables. For a delicious, balanced and filling meal, donburi is often served with miso soup and pickled vegetables.
With a long and rich history as a part of Japanese cuisine, the modern-day donburi was created during the Edo Period (1603-1867). The first donburi is said to have been broiled eel on rice, served as a meal to be eaten while attending the theatre. However, donburi quickly gained popularity, becoming a dish that is readily available in restaurants and even convenience stores across Japan. Donburi is also a quick and easy meal to cook at home because, with a flexible template, you can use a range of toppings, from leftovers to seasonal ingredients.
Donburi is a dish that is served at restaurants throughout the year but can also be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. Today, let’s talk about 6 of the most popular types of donburi in Japan.
Considered the first donburi, unadon is an excellent way to try Japan’s famous freshwater eel, which is a common ingredient used within Japanese cuisine. Unadon is a delicious dish made with grilled eel that is coated in a thick, sweet soy sauce, similar to teriyaki, and served on top of freshly steamed rice. Eel in Japanese is unagi (うなぎ) and it is abbreviated as una (うな) which gives unadon its name. With over a century to perfect the recipe, it is not surprising that many Japanese restaurants now specialise in unadon.
Another one of the most popular ways to enjoy donburi is gyudon. In this dish, white rice is topped with thinly sliced beef and onions that have been cooked in a sweet broth made of soy sauce, dashi, and mirin. Many donburi fast food chains specialise in this simple yet delicious dish, offering a variety of additional toppings like egg, kimchi, cheese, and much more. Butadon (豚丼) is a similar donburi widely available at fast food restaurants that uses pork (buta, 豚) rather than beef (gyuu, 牛).
Oyakodon is a particularly flavourful and nutritious dish. Steamed chicken and egg are cooked with onion in a sweet and savoury combination of dashi and soy sauce and then served on freshly cooked rice, and garnished with either green onions or fresh herbs. Oyakodon directly translates as “parent and child rice bowl”, with chicken being the parent (oya, 親) and egg being the child (ko, 子). For a meat free alternative of oyakodon, try tamagodon (玉子丼) which is fluffy steamed egg and onion served on rice.
A great way to enjoy katsu (カツ) is in katsudon. After being put in flour and egg, meat needs to be coated in panko (パン粉), a light and flaky bread crumb often used in Japanese cuisine, and deep fried to become a delectably golden and crispy katsu. To make katsudon, the katsu is then simmered with sliced onion and a scrambled egg in a mixture of sweet soy sauce and dashi. The most popular meats used within katsudon include pork (tonkatsu / 豚カツ), prawn (ebi katsu / エビカツ), and chicken (chicken katsu / チキンカツ).
Tendon is a simple and delicious way to enjoy tempura. Seafood and vegetables such as prawns, sweet potato, pumpkin, shiitake mushrooms, eggplant, and sweet green peppers are commonly used in tendon. They are coated in a simple batter made from flour, egg, and water, and then deep fried resulting in a light, flavourful and crispy golden tempura. Steamed rice is topped with this tempura and then drizzled with tentsuyu (天つゆ), a tempura dipping sauce. Popular types of tendon include ebi tendon (エビ天丼) and, for a meat free option, yasai tendon (野菜天丼).
If you love seafood, then kaisendon is the dish for you — as thinly sliced sashimi is carefully presented on top of freshly made rice. Kaisendon is a beautiful dish made with an array of fresh, delicious seafood including tuna, crab, prawns, scallops, and roe. The seafood used changes depending on the season and the location you are in. Specifically, Winter is the best season to enjoy ikura oyakodon (いくら親子丼), a mixture of kaisendon and oyakodon where rice is topped with salmon sashimi and ikura (salmon roe).
These are just a few examples of the types of donburi available in Japan. If you visit, make sure to try some of these simple and delicious donburi.
Featuring photo credit: Tayawee Supan on Unsplash