Donburi is a rice dish in a bowl with either meat, fish, vegetables and other ingredients that are topped over the rice. One of the best characteristics of this dish is that it matches the modern style of food preparation nowadays: fast, delicious and presentable. Everything in one bowl is amazing and easy to eat.
How it came to be
The history of donburi started around the Edo era which is around the 1600’s to the late 1800’s. The very first donburi dish to appear was the unagi-don which is eel over a bowl of rice. It is a dish that is supposed to be eaten as a person attends theater. Because the dish was delicious and easy to prepare, it then started becoming popular especially during the Meiji era around the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.
Types of donburi
There are a lot of types of donburi in Japan but here are the most popular donburis you do not want to miss out on.
- Ikura don
This don features salmon roe which is called ikura in Japanese. It is quite nice to look at especially as the cool orbs of the salmon roe burst with freshness and the color contrast with the rice is but a piece of art.
The literal meaning of this done is parent and child and that may seem a bit weird but what is really meant by that is that the chicken which is the parent is served together with its child, its egg. It is also topped up with onion and sweet broth together with some fresh herb. This don is delicious and something that should be tried out.
Pork or chicken that is breaded, deep fried and cut, then simmered in soy sauce and sweet dashi topped with sliced onion and egg. This is one of the most famous don out of all the donburi meals as it is the easiest to prepare and the crowd just loves it.
If you are up for beef, then you might as well try this beef bowl which is also popular in terms of donburi. It features thinly sliced beef that is simmered together with onion in the broth that is mildly sweet. It is topped with egg, radish or anything under the sun.
A specialty don from the northern part of Japan, Hokkaido. This don is made of rice topped up with the best-caught seafood of the day that usually includes: scallops, shrimp, crab meat, sea urchin, salmon row and a whole lot more. This is truly the don that features the treasure of the sea.
For vegetarians, this don is made for you with its main ingredients being bamboo hots, cabbage, and mushroom. There might be some seafood and meat but you can request it to be removed or just pick it out. This is one popular dish in terms of the fast food industry in Japan.
Imagine gyudon but now with pork because that is exactly what this don is. This was invented because there was a restriction on beef around the early 2000s up due to saying that there is a mad cow disease going around the cows. Once the restrictions were lifted, the popularity of butadon soared high enough so that it remained being the don that it is.
- Tempura don
Tendon for short although that can be confusing as it sounds like some sort of tissue in the body but it’s the iconic term for “tempura don” which tempura that is deep fried and then placed over the piping hot rice and then poured over with sauce.
Best restaurants in Tokyo to get your donburi
After knowing the most popular kinds of donburi, knowing where to grab them when you are in Tokyo is a must as well so here are the top three restaurants to go to in case you want to try out the best donburi in town.
- Torisune Shizendo
For the best chicken donburi, this restaurant is the best restaurant to dine at with their chicken meat coming from chickens that are raised in the prefecture of Nagoya which means that it is very firm but still tender. The way they prepare their dish is great as well that the chicken is slightly chewy and crispy at the same time.
Try a new donburi every day at this restaurant if you like seafood because they specialize in seafood don with different variations that vary depending on the stock that they will have for the day. The way they serve the food is truly spectacular especially the plating and harmony of the meal.
Take a tour back to the past with their eel donburi where the anago eel sticks out of the don because of its large size. Imagine eating it with hot rice, with its crunchy texture outside and soft and tender inside and the sauce that maximizes the flavor of the eel. This dish is worth the try.
If you are used to the fast pace life in Japan then donburi is quite the perfect fit for you, as the ease of preparation is there and there are a lot of restaurants all over the city that serves it.
Alecksandra is a food hobbyist and otaku who has a deep interest in Japanese culture and cuisine. She likes knowing how every food out there in the open came to be, the meaning of their very names, why they taste the way they do and the diverging concepts that are behind every dish. One day she will travel to different countries to go restaurant hopping and share her food adventures to the world.