Imagine a bowl of rice topped with all of your favorite Japanese foods!
Have I made your mouth watery by reminding you of your deary food items?
Actually, I was talking about the donburi bowl—a simple yet versatile and delicious one-dish meal.
This traditional Japanese rice bowl can be enjoyed with varieties of food toppings, and the variation in toppings makes these dishes different from each other.
If you are keen to know about those diverse types of donburi bowls, then don’t go anywhere.
Today I will take you to the world of all those flavorous and tasty vintage rice bowls that will make you crave this yummy Japanese food.
Anyway, in case the concept is not yet clear to you, firstly, let’s know what donburi is.
What Is A Donburi Bowl?
Donburi means bowl in Japanese, which refers to any dish where rice is placed in a bowl and topped with anything you want.
From fish, meats, seafood, vegetables, eggs to mapo tofu, steak, and whatever it is, anything will do so.
All the ingredients are simmered with flavorful seasonings and placed on top of plain, steamed white rice.
The simmering sauce varies depending on the ingredients, region, season, and taste. A typical sauce consists of dashi flavored with soy sauce and mirin. The proportion may vary, but usually, three to four times as much dashi as soy sauce and mirin are taken.
Oh, I forgot to tell you that it is also called donburi sauce.
In case you are curious about the size of a donburi bowl, let me inform you that it is actually an oversized rice bowl, which is also called a donburi.
To distinguish, the bowl is called donburi-bachi, and the food inside it is called donburi-mono.
Hopefully, everything is clear to you now. Let’s get to the main point without any further delay.
Types of Donburi Bowls
As the definition of donburi is so broad, the possibilities are endless as long as you have that one key ingredient- rice.
And as a result, pretty much all Japanese prefectures have their own regional donburi bowl recipes.
Here you will find the most popular donburi dishes that we Japanese love to enjoy a lot.
Gyudon is probably one of the most popular types of don dishes, which can be literally translated to beef bowl.
Thin slices of beef and onion are served over a bowl of rice after simmering them with mirin, sugar, sake, and soy sauce. It imparts a salty-sweet flavor to the dish.
With the beef and onion, I always take some more ingredients as toppings, such as a poached egg, pickled ginger, kimchi, red chili, or grated daikon radish with ponzu citrus dressing.
And I also recommend you to do so as it doubles or triples the taste of this yummy and savory dish.
However, if you want to enjoy gyudon at a restaurant, you will get to experience a different thing.
In most cases, they will let you season the dish according to your preference.
If you want a complete meal on a budget while being in Japan, you should try it at least once.
Where You Can Get The Best Gyudon:
Tendon is one of my favorite Japanese food bowls, and I am sure that it can satisfy the taste buds of any tempura lover.
This one-bowl meal is a delicious combination of tempura and donburi, where deep-fried tempuras are served over freshly steamed rice with sauce.
Here the tempura may cover a wide range of ingredients such as seafood like shrimp, squid, different types of vegetables like eggplants, daikon radish, kabocha squash, etc. They are battered and deep-fried to make tempura and then enjoyed with rice.
To make the tendon bowl even more appetizing, we usually place the tempura over rice after drizzling it with umami-imparting tentsuyu. It is a savory tempura sauce made with dashi soup stock and kaeshi, a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.
Anyway, as tempura is deep-fried, you might think that it will be soggy or oily, but it is not like that. Let me give you some tips to identify good quality tendons.
While having this donburi bowl in a restaurant, always keep in mind that the best tendon is always light and crispy, never swampy or greasy.
Where You Can Get The Best Tendon:
You will get a twist in its taste just like it has a twist in its name, oyakodon, which means parent and child.
Steamed chicken (the parent) pieces are simmered together with egg (the child) and chopped scallions in a sweet and savory broth and then placed on top of rice garnishing with fresh herbs and shichimi pepper spice.
Oyakodon is a quite popular lunch bowl in our country, as it is easy and quick to prepare.
You can get this simple dish in numerous Japanese eateries, fast-food restaurants and even buy from street vendors.
Where You Can Get The Best Oyakodon:
Every individual region of this country has its own donburi bowl, as I said earlier.
Now I will talk about a seafood donburi called kaisendon, which is a specialty dish of Hokkaido in northern Japan.
This dish features steaming hot rice topped with thinly sliced, assorted raw seafood called sashimi. Though it is not fixed what kind of seafood should be used for sashimi, you can select it depending on the location and season.
The most popular items include fresh uni (sea urchin), maguro (tuna), tai (sea bream), hotate (scallops), ama ebi (deep-water shrimps), kani (crab), and sometimes even marinated ikura (salmon roe).
To make your bowl more appealing, top it with toasted nori seaweed, shiso or Japanese basil, myoga ginger, onions, cucumber, and either fresh or pickled ginger besides sashimi.
And all the ingredients should be drizzled with wasabi-laced soy sauce before placing over the bed of rice.
Lastly, garnish the kaisendon bowl with some white radish sprouts, white sesame seeds, and wasabi paste, and don’t forget to take some instagrammable snaps to show off with your friends.
Where You Can Get The Best Kaisendon:
Buta means pork, and don means bowl. So, butadon is a bowl of rice topped with sliced pork simmered in a slightly sweet soy sauce. You may also add some green peas and onions as toppings.
During the early-to-mid 2000s, when there were restrictions on beef, butadon became a popular equivalent of gyudon. Many beef bowl chains started serving this pork bowl.
Well, it has been many years since the restrictions were lifted, but butadon is still very popular in Japan.
Where You Can Eat The Best Butadon:
The topping of katsudon features breaded and deep-fried pork or chicken cutlet that is cooked together with a scrambled egg and thinly sliced onion in a sweet dashi and soy sauce broth.
After stuffing it into your mouth, when you notice that the breaded cutlet is still crisp even after cooking in the savory broth, you will be bound to say, yumm….
But don’t forget to share this with your partner, engulfing yourself in its heavenly taste.
By the way, talking about its origin, this dish dates back to 1921, but since then, it has been deviated from the original recipe by adding or replacing numerous ingredients.
But the best-known version still includes katsudon made with Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and miso.
Where to Eat The Best Katsudon:
Simply place some grilled unagi(eel) on top of steamed rice, and this is unadon for you.
Well, this may sound simple, but you need to endure a lot of hassle to have this tasty donburi food.
The eel here is usually grilled in kabayaki-style where the fish is split down, gutted, butterflied, cut into square fillets, skewered, then dipped in tare sauce before being grilled. This sweetened sauce is used to ensure the necessary caramelization of the fish during the grilling process.
In the Kanto region, the eel is steamed before grilling to get a more tender texture, while in Kansai, it is just grilled without steaming.
Anyway, some sansho berries are also kept on top before the final serving to enhance the artistic value.
Chukadon is a popular Japanese dish, which is believed to be originated in the 1930s in a Chinese-style restaurant in Tokyo.
The rice can be accompanied by various meat, seafood ingredients, and sliced vegetables like bamboo shoots, cabbage, and wood ear mushroom, which are shortly stir-fried in a thick and starchy soy-infused sauce.
It is very easy to prepare and can make a way out for you on your laziest or busiest day.
You can find chukadon on the menus of many Japanese fast-food establishments as well.
If you are more or less familiar with Japanese cuisine, you probably have noticed some bright colored glistening tiny balls-like elements on top of various dishes.
Hmm, I was talking about salmon roe, which is known as ikura in Japanese.
Salmon roes are marinated in a flavorful broth based on mirin, soy sauce, and sake and then placed over a bowl of freshly steamed rice.
Just put it in your mouth and taste the succulent freshness of the buttery roes that contrasts nicely with the hot rice.
You can also add raw egg yolks or dry seaweed stripes to enhance its flavor.
A simple Japanese don food, tekkadon, consists of vinegar-flavored steamed rice that is topped with sashimi-style, raw pieces of tuna.
Soy sauce is usually served on the side after garnishing the dish with sliced scallions and strips of nori seaweed.
If you incorporate marinated pieces of tuna instead of raw ones, the term will change, and then you should call it maguro zuke don, which is usually served without a dipping sauce.
I like the latter one most and also recommend you to try it at least once if tuna is your favorite seafood.
Tenshindon belongs to the broad category of donburi dishes, where many Japanese ingredients and meals are served over rice.
The main feature of tenshindon is the omelet which employs crab meat, mushrooms, peas, authentic Japanese negi onions, and sliced ginger.
Firstly, the rice is served in a bowl, and then the omelet is positioned on top.
Finally, a thick sauce made of vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, chicken broth, oyster sauce, starch, and occasionally ketchup is poured generously over the top.
Konohadon is a traditional Japanese dish that is particularly famous in Kyoto and Osaka.
This donburi dish consists of a bowl of rice with finely sliced fish cakes, raw eggs, and sometimes shiitake mushrooms and scallions.
The egg is spread raw over the hot rice, and it gets lightly cooked by the heat of the rice.
In case you are concerned about our use of raw eggs, I can assure you that Japanese raw eggs are completely safe. In fact, we do it to get its highest nutritional benefits.
Anyway, you can also include sliced nori seaweed or fried tofu to enrich the dish further.
Shirasudon is a traditional dish of the Kanagawa region, which is particularly a specialty of Chigasaki, Kamakura, and Enoshima Island.
For shirasudon, boiled, dried, or raw shirasu, including baby sardines, sand lances, or herring, is simply placed on top of a rice bowl and eaten with soy sauce.
The texture of those fish is light and fluffy, while the aroma is slightly salty.
To relish the best taste out of it, I suggest adding some Japanese herbs, seaweed, and sliced leeks, with tare on the side.
What can be more simple and easy than making tamagodon?
Well, literally nothing!
Prepare a fluffy egg omelet by mixing it with onions and a savory sauce made with dashi, mirin, and soy sauce, and place it over a bowl of steamed rice. This is the tamagodon for you.
If you are in a hurry but at the same time hungry, this plain and quick meal can make you relieved from stressing yourself.
However, you may consider garnishing this Japanese comfort food staple with nori seaweed and chopped spring onions if you have time.
Wanna make something quick but with a bit of a twist?
Then go for negitorodon.
It is a donburi bowl that is characterized by an incredibly mild and refreshing flavor.
Just place some pieces of raw fatty tuna over rice. But how will you prepare the tuna for this dish?
Traditionally, tuna used in this bowl is scraped around the bones or thinly sliced and then mixed with green onions, seasoned with soy sauce.
After preparing the tuna in this way, you can finally place it over a heap of plain steamed rice and then serve with wasabi, seaweed strips, and raw egg yolk.
Well, these are the most popular donburi bowls, while so many varieties are out there.
Now that you know about these dishes, you might be curious about their food value before trying them.
Let’s see whether they can benefit us in any way or just a feast for the taste buds.
Are Donburi Bowls Healthy?
Well, it entirely depends on the toppings.
Most don dishes found in restaurants or other eateries are not very healthy. They tend to skimp on vegetables, focusing on meats, eggs, and other protein sources. Besides, they also use a pretty ample amount of short-grained white rice, which rarely has any nutritional value.
But don’t worry, even if you are so much health conscious. It won’t resist you enjoying this tasty Japanese dish.
The most convenient way to ensure your donburi bowl is healthy is by making it yourself. Take a limited amount of rice and then top it with healthy and nutritious food items.
Things apart, if you are curious about the history of this don bowl, let me brief you on it.
A Brief History of The Japanese Donburi Bowl
Donburi cuisine first appeared in Japan in the 1600s, when grilled eel pieces were served over rice to theatergoers during the Edo period.
Since then, the concept of donburi has become widespread, and it has been expanded to a wide range of foods, from beef, pork, chicken to seafood, vegetables, and more.
And now, it has become ubiquitous to the point where you will get it at luxury, high-end restaurants, local casual eatery, and even at Japanese convenience stores.
Well, I have nothing more to inform you regarding this topic. Let’s go for the wrap-up now.
Different types of donburi bowls are now so common to find around Japan. These are so filling and savory that I think you shouldn’t miss trying at least one bowl of your favorite types when you are in our country.
Let’s meet up through another write-up. Thill then, goodbye.