Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors


Donburi is a Japanese rice dish that is served in a bowl and can be eaten with chopsticks. It is usually filled with meat, vegetables, eggs, or other ingredients. Traditionally it was made of cooked rice mixed with toppings and covered by another layer of seasoned rice.

Watch this video on steak donburi!

What is donburi?

Donburi is a Japanese rice bowl dish, originating in the 18th century. It consists of hot rice topped with meat or fish and fresh ingredients mixed together to form one large bowl that's intended to serve as a complete meal. The dish can be topped with Japanese pickles, pickled ginger, spring onions, and donburi sauce. It is also known as ochazuke when served cold over hot tea (cha don).

There are many variations on this simple formula:

  • beef bowls for example can be made by cooking ground beef with onions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and mirin then mixing it with cooked white rice;
  • seafood dishes have toppings such as salmon sashimi and kimchi fried rice;
  • an egg bowl includes eggs like Karaage Chicken Bowls that include deep-fried chicken tossed in mayo dressing alongside green peas carrots and cabbage.

What does donburi mean?

Donburi can mean rice bowls, which is the literal translation. It's unclear how it got this meaning but some believe it could be because donburi was historically served at a Japanese restaurant that only serves rice dishes, called "donkan." However, donburi also means a restaurant where you can order rice dishes or ochazuke.

The Japanese food known as donburi consists of boiled white rice and toppings that may vary depending on the region in Japan it was created in such as beef bowl with ground beef cooked with onions, ginger, garlic soy sauce and mirin then mixed together to form one “bowl” or seafood like shrimp tempura kimchi fried rice.

Donburi can also translate into "a type of food served over another" from its original use for a single dish consisting only of sushi vinegar-seasoned rice over an ingredient usually raw fish.

History of donburi

Donburi bowl is a Japanese dish, originating in the 18th century.

In 1782, the donburi was named by Katsuyori Shibata after winning an eating contest with this dish (which he called "don-tsui"). He would use cooked white rice and top it with grilled eel. The meat or fish mixed together to form one “bowl”.

This dish became more popular in the 19th century as Japan started trading internationally and ingredients like beef began being imported into Japan from abroad. By 1928 there were over 100 different types of donburis made by restaurants all across Japan including chicken curry bowls and egg omelet bowls among others according to records kept at that time. It was also in this era that smaller restaurants serving only donburi rice dishes started popping up.

In the 20th century, Japan's economy grew and people became more health conscious so they replaced eggs with fish or vegetables to make their favorite bowl of rice healthier. Some popular variations include beef bowls for example can be made by cooking ground beef with onions, ginger, garlic soy sauce and mirin then mixing it with cooked white Rice. Seafood dishes have toppings such as shrimp tempura and kimchi fried rice; an egg bowl includes eggs like Karaage Chicken Bowls which include deep-fried chicken tossed in mayo dressing alongside green peas carrots and cabbage.

Another popular variation is the gyudon, which typically consists of cooked beef and onions simmered in a sweet sauce. There are also chicken katsu donburi dishes where fried bacon cutlets are served with egg over rice. The dish can be eaten by dipping it into shoyu (soy sauce) or curry before eating.

Donburi became so prevalent that there were restaurants solely dedicated to serving these bowls of stir-fried rice at any hour of the day from morning meals to late night snacks called "donkans."

In Japanese culture, people often eat their lunch during afternoon work hours because they have an early supper after work around seven o'clock pm when most people return home from their job.

Donburi recipes

Popular donburi recipes vary by region, but there are two main types of donburi: rice with a topping; and noodles mixed into the dish. The difference between these dishes is usually that in one case (rice) rice fills up most of the bowl while in another (noodles), it takes less than half.

Rice-based donburis

Ochazuke is a variation of otsumami, or the Japanese equivalent of tapas: small tidbits to accompany drinks and conversation over some time in an informal setting. The dish usually consists of plain white rice (cooked with enough water so that it becomes almost cooked through) mixed together with green tea as well as any other ingredients like chopped vegetables, seaweed strips, salmon roe and soy sauce. This mixture can be served either hot or cold depending on preference. It also bears similarity to zojirushi which is boiled rice mixed with dashi soup stock such as shoyu broth then seasoned according to taste before being eaten by hand from a bowl traditionally made from cypress wood (sugi).

Oyakodon is a dish that consists of chopped, raw chicken and vegetables served over well cooked sushi rice. The name literally means “parent-and-child” in Japanese where the word oyako can be both an adjective as well as a noun meaning parent and child respectively. It may include grated daikon radish to which soy sauce has been added before being mixed with scrambled eggs or beaten egg stirred into hot dashi stock for soup type dishes such as ochazuke mentioned earlier.

Katsudon is made by pan frying thinly sliced pork until crisp then dipping it in beaten egg and cornstarch before deep frying again until golden brown on the outside. It can also be made from ground chicken eggs scrambled with shredded cabbage.

Noodles-based donburis

Katsuobushi oboro soba is a thin noodle soup of soy sauce flavored dashi stock topped with slivered ika (squid), dried bonito flakes and seaweed.

Kitsune udon are noodles mixed into a light broth, usually shoyu ramen or miso jyuudon where wheat flour dough pieces boiled to achieve chewy texture are added after boiling off excess water. The most popular type of topping for kitsune udon is pieces of char siu pork that has been stewed in sweetened soy sauce and sake such as teriyaki sauce before being cooked further by deep frying until crisp. Miso jyuudon is a variation of kitsune udon with the addition of miso and soy sauce such as shoyu to flavor the broth type soup dish.

The types, toppings and other ingredients for donburi may vary but all are rice-based dishes often eaten in Japan during lunchtime or supper time when people would have not had much time to prepare food due to work schedules. This makes them appropriate substitutes as second helpings if one has already consumed their first course at dinner, or needed alongside another meal like noodles for breakfast.

Miso jyuudon is typically served on top of white Japanese rice while katsuobushi oboro soba can be topped with raw egg yolk, a raw egg that is cracked into the bowl before eating it. The oyakodon dish often includes vegetables such as cabbage, carrots and potatoes along with green peas.

What's the difference between bibimbap and donburi?

Donburi is a Japanese rice dish, usually served in the izakaya (Japanese pub) setting. It consists of cooked white rice topped with meat or seafood and vegetables traditionally encapsulated by an egg omelette called shimeji.

Bibimbap on the other hand features more diverse toppings such as beef, pork stir-fried with sesame oil; seasoned soybean sprouts, thinly sliced scallions and cucumbers soaked in vinegar; boiled eggs dressed in chillant sauce; different types of kimchi including kkakdugi (cabbage), naengchae (radish leaves) and bossam cabbage); toasted seaweed sheets brushed with gochujang paste mixed with minced garlic.

The two dishes have different origins. Bibimbap originates from Jeolla-do, Korea while donburi is believed to be a Japanese dish; the main difference in ingredients are rice versus noodles and vegetables on top of bibimbap as opposed to chicken or egg omelette encapsulated by shimeji for donburi.

Bibimbap is served in a stone bowl and the ingredients are mixed by tossing together with rice, whereas donburi consists of separate components. The dish has also been known to be available as a single-serving or individual meal for convenience purposes.

The popularity of bibimbap stems from its versatility: it can be eaten alone without any additional condiments; used as an accompaniment to other dishes such as Korean barbecue (bulgogi) or presented on top of thin wheat noodles in broth; cooked into fried rice called dolsot bibimbap; or even made into a cold noodle salad during summer months known as naengmyeon. On the other hand, donburi's simplicity makes it a staple at the izakaya and is typically eaten with beer.

Donburi's simplicity makes it a staple at the izakaya and is typically eaten with beer, whereas Bibimbap's versatility has made it popular in other settings such as an accompaniment to Korean barbecue or even a cold noodle salad during summer months known as naengmyeon.

What's the difference between poke and donburi?

Poke is a dish that typically consists of raw fish or other seafood served over rice. Donburi, on the other hand, refers to any bowl-shaped Japanese meal with different ingredients mixed in with the sushi rice and topped with an egg. Common variations include katsudon (a combination of fried pork cutlets, onion slices, scrambled eggs and soy sauce), oyakodon (chicken cooked together with sliced onions) and gyūdon (beef stir fry).

Donburi can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner but it usually contains more carbohydrates than protein. The name "donburi" comes from "dondon", which means “bowl” in Japanese - so donburis are typically served in a bowl.

Final thoughts on donburi

Hope you enjoyed this article on donburi!

Looking for more on Donburi and other similar content? Try these:

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Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors

August 12, 2021 — Konnichi wa