Have you ever seen “donburi” on a menu in a Japanese restaurant? It probably didn’t sound like too exciting of a dish, did it? It is usually described simply as a bowl of rice with a topping of beef, fish or tempura and subsequently passed over in favor of more delicious-sounding stir-fries or sushi rolls. This is unfortunate, because donburi can actually be quite flavorful. After you’ve tried a few variations, you might find yourself seeking out donburi on a frequent basis.
What Is Donburi?
Put simply, donburi refers to a bowl of rice with additional ingredients on top, forming a complete meal. Common donburi toppings include beef, assorted raw fish, and tempura, but there are many other combinations. The addition of flavorful sauces, vegetables and more creates a comforting umami that is filling but doesn’t get you overly and uncomfortably full.
Japan is home to a large number of donburi restaurants. As the dish is relatively inexpensive and quick to prepare, many fast food establishments specialize in doburi menu. The donburi craze is catching on in America as well, with restaurants dedicated to donburi opening in major cities such as Los Angeles and New York.
In more upscale Japanese restaurants, chefs often create their own special signature sauces for their donburi offerings. What’s more, flavors also vary among Japan’s different regions.
The 5 Best Japanese Donburi to Try
Consider trying these five popular donburi dishes the next time you visit a Japanese restaurant. You might also try making some of them yourself!
This very comforting dish has a long history in Japan, having been first invented in Tokyo in 1891. The name of the dish literally means “parent-and-child-bowl” as its main ingredients are chicken and egg. The ingredients are simmered in a soup stock before being added to the rice bowl.
Meaning “beef bowl,” this version of donburi contains beef, as you might have guessed. The beef, along with onions, raw egg and other combinations of ingredients, such as noodles or vegetables, is simmered in a sauce made of mirin, dashi and soy sauce. Try making this delicious vegetable beef bowl yourself!
Ten Don (Donburi With Tempura)
It’s a guilty pleasure and quite a filling meal. Ten don is a rice bowl with crispy tempura and drizzled with a dressing made with soy sauce. You can add additional ingredients, such as scallions or egg, or a bit of broth instead of soy sauce.
This dish often makes an appearance on menus in Japanese restaurants in America and is also a popular donburi choice in Japan. Katsu don takes the rice bowl and tops it with a pork cutlet that has been deep-fried. Additional ingredients include egg, assorted vegetables and typically a sauce referred to as tonkatsu sauce, which is a thick, savory-sweet sauce.
Kaisen Don (Seafood Donburi)
A popular lunch option in Japan, kaisen don is a rice bowl with assorted slices of raw fish (sashimi). Different restaurants will use different types of fish, and nearly anything you might find used in sushi rolls will make an appearance, such as octopus, uni, tuna, shrimp, salmon, etc.
Similar to the Kaisen Don, a Poke Bowl is essentially a Hawaiian dish that is also enjoyed in Japan, whose residents are frequent visitors to the Hawaiian islands. The poke bowl contains tuna and/or salmon sashimi, onion, and avocado. It comes with a delicious sauce made with soy, mirin and sesame.
With so many donburi options and variations to choose from, you’ll be able to enjoy a different dish every night of the week!