Translated byHilary Keyes
Writer, translator, designer, weirdo.
Donburi is one of the most popular foods in Japan; what's not to like about a big bowl of rice covered with some really amazing toppings? The flavors of the toppings really soak into the rice, making for completely different tastes than you get by eating
Donburi (丼) is a good example of Japanese cooking: a large bowl with steaming hot rice and a warm, flavorful topping. Eating this topping with the rice at the base is a completely different taste experience compared to other dishes where the rice is served separately. Donburi are well-loved by all ages and genders. Today, let's look at the six most popular types of donburi dishes.
Katsudon is a fried pork cutlet (*1) that has been lightly fried in a mixture of soy sauce and scrambled egg, then placed on rice. It combines Japanese flavors, fried foods and meat, making it very popular with many different groups of people. The average price of katsudon runs around 800 yen, and is a guaranteed part of most soba and set meal restaurants. Recently, the katsudon specialist chain shop Katsuya has been selling one variety of this dish for 500 yen.
*1 Tonkatsu: fried pork cutlets that have been battered in a mix of flour, egg and bread crumbs.
Japanese Encyclopedia: Teishoku (Set Meal)
“Tonkatsu Tonki”, the Deep-Fried Pork of 74 Years in Meguro
Crispy Tonkatsu at Kuramae’s Famous “Sugita”
Photo by:hirotomo t on Flickr
Ten-don has tempura resting on rice with a mild sauce poured over it. As there are many different forms of tempura, from shrimp to seasonal vegetables, this dish in particular has a lot of variety to offer in taste. The price of ten-don also varies greatly. Shrimp or anago (grilled eel) tempura can be quite pricey, while "kakiage-don" (*2) is comparatively cheap. Ten-don is commonly found at tempura or soba restaurants and ranges in price from 500 yen to about 1500 yen.
*2 Kakiage: a type of tempura where the ingredients have been chopped, battered and fried into cakes.
Photo by:jetalone on Flickr
Gyū-don is made from thinly sliced beef and onions that have been saturated in a salty-sweet soy sauce-based sauce then laid over the rice. Yoshinoya and Sukiya, two popular gyū-don chain restaurants can be found at almost every station so you can easily enjoy gyū-don anywhere. Your meal will arrive mere minutes after ordering it at one of these shops, and most bowls of gyū-don start from 300 yen, making it perfect for business lunches or a late dinner.
Unagi-don is a slightly sweet, savory rice bowl that has kabayaki (*3) on top of the rice. As unagi is rather expensive to begin with, this donburi tends to cost about 1000 yen and is typically only available at traditional Japanese restaurants or unagi specialty shops.
*3 Kabayaki: eel that has been dipped in a salty-sweet sauce before being broiled.
Photo by:ume-y on Flickr
In this dish, the chicken is first cut into bite-sized pieces and then stewed in an egg soy sauce base, then put on top of the rice. The dish itself is called oyakodon because it refers to “oya” ("parents") - in this case chicken - and “ko” ("child/children") - the eggs. It’s quite popular thanks to the combination between the delicious taste of the chicken and the thick richness of the eggs. You can easily find this dish at set meal restaurants or soba shops.
Kaisendon refers to a beautifully arranged assortment of shrimp, squid and a variety of fresh fish sashimi placed on top of rice; this rice may be plain white rice or sushi rice. Rather than pouring sauce over this dish, many prefer to eat the sashimi separately with soy sauce. Kaisendon can be found at Japanese restaurants, sushi shops and of course near Tsukiji Fish Market. The pricing for this dish is somewhat different than the others as, depending on the ingredients and their quality, the price can run from very reasonable to quite expensive.