Are you familiar with the traditional Japanese dining style where ingredients are placed on a bed of white rice in a bowl? It’s called “donburi” dishes. By being served in the same bowl, the flavors of the ingredients meld with the rice, offering a unique and delicious experience that differs from eating them separately on separate plates.
We’d love for you to experience these delicious donburi dishes when you visit Japan. In this article, we’ll introduce several must-try donburi dishes that we recommend you enjoy during your stay. We’ve also highlighted some that are unique to the Kansai region, including Osaka and Kyoto.
Katsudon is a dish where “katsu” (juicy, freshly fried pork) is combined with a soy-based sauce made with Japanese broth and eggs. It’s served on top of white rice. The choice of pork cut for the “katsu” varies by restaurant, with the most common being pork loin. However, some places also offer katsudon with tender cuts like pork tenderloin or shoulder loin for a lighter option.
A popular dish in Japan that’s also loved by foreigners. It features crispy, freshly fried pork and fluffy rice in a perfect balance. With its hearty portion, it’s quite satisfying as a standalone dish. You can enjoy it at specialized katsudon restaurants or at places that offer udon or soba noodles.
Gyudon is a popular Japanese fast food dish that features tenderly simmered beef and a sweet and savory sauce atop a bed of rice. The beef is thinly sliced and slow-cooked with onions in a special sauce, resulting in a soft and juicy texture. It’s served over rice and often garnished with red pickled ginger.
Simple yet satisfying, gyudon is loved by many for its delicious taste. In Japan, there are numerous chain restaurants that offer gyudon, making it available throughout the streets. And it’s affordable too. It’s safe to say that it’s one of the most convenient and accessible rice bowl dishes in Japan.
Oyakodon is a traditional Japanese home-cooked dish where chicken and eggs are simmered in a flavorful sweet and savory sauce, then served on top of rice. The name “oyako” translates to “parent and child,” symbolizing the combination of chicken (parent) and egg (child). The chicken is tender, the eggs are velvety, and they pair wonderfully with the sweet and savory sauce. As the simmered chicken and egg mix with the rice, you can savor the delightful flavors and textures coming together.
Since the flavor of the chicken used can vary based on its origin, it’s interesting to try the same oyakodon from different places and compare the tastes. You can enjoy it at places that offer udon or soba noodles, as well as at traditional Japanese set meal restaurants.
Tanindon is a dish where beef and eggs are simmered in a flavorful sweet and savory sauce, then served on top of rice. Unlike oyakodon, which features chicken and eggs together, tendon gets its name from “tanin” meaning “stranger” as it combines beef and eggs – beef being from cattle and eggs from chickens, thus the term “stranger.” It’s worth noting that the name “tendon” is used only in the Kansai region; in Tokyo and other areas, it might be called “gyutojidon” or “kaikadon.”
Essentially, “tendon” replaces the chicken in oyakodon with beef, while keeping the other ingredients unchanged. However, the flavor of the beef that melds with the broth creates a different and unique dish. It’s offered at select udon, soba, and some gyudon chain restaurants, although there are fewer places that serve it compared to the other rice bowl dishes introduced so far.
Konohadon is a dish where ingredients like fish cake and sweet potato tempura are simmered in a broth with eggs, then served on top of rice. It’s a variation of the oyakodon and tendon, but instead of using chicken or beef, it features items like fish cake. This makes it a suitable option even for those who aren’t fond of meat.
As for why it’s called “Konohadon,” there isn’t a clear explanation. One theory is that it’s named after the way the fish cake is scattered, resembling maple leaves. It’s often available at places that offer udon or soba noodles, but it’s not commonly found outside the Kansai region, so please keep that in mind. You might likely not come across it elsewhere.
Kaisendon, a popular Japanese dish, is a flavorful rice bowl made with an abundance of fresh seafood. Typically, it features a vibrant arrangement of sashimi such as tuna and salmon, along with various shellfish, shrimp, salmon roe, octopus, and squid on a bed of rice. The seafood ingredients in the bowl can vary by region and season, but they all use fresh and high-quality ingredients. It’s enjoyed simply with a drizzle of soy sauce or special sauce.
With its appealing appearance and the chance to savor the fresh flavors of the sea, seafood bowls are widely available in eateries located in tourist destinations and coastal areas. When visiting Japan, it’s highly recommended to try this regional specialty. It’s a dish that allows you to indulge in the bounty of Japan’s oceans.
Unadon is a traditional Japanese dish where eel is grilled with a special sweet and savory sauce, then placed on top of rice in a rice bowl. The eel is coated with the unique sauce and grilled to perfection. The grilled eel is tender, juicy, and its flavor is enhanced by the delightful sweet and savory sauce.
Unadon is a dish where grilled eel is placed on top of rice and enjoyed along with the rice soaked in the sauce. It’s offered at eateries like restaurant chains and specialized unagi (eel) shops. Eel is considered a premium ingredient, so it comes with a relatively higher price, but its delicious taste is definitely worth trying when you visit Japan.