Japanese Donburi Rice Bowls A Myriad Of Delicious Types And Flavors

Japanese donburi rice bowls are a popular food in Japan that can be made to suit your personal preferences and taste. The dish is very popular all over Japan and each region has its own version.

What is donburi?

Donburi rice bowls are a traditional Japanese food that is very popular all throughout Japan. The great thing about donburi rice bowls is that you can add any toppings that you like. The name itself simply means rice bowl with toppings. 

You can add any toppings that your heart desires and you can choose fish, meat, or even vegetarian versions. 

Traditionally you should use short-grain rice, but you can also use any type of rice that you have available. 

Donburi Restaurant in Ameyayokocho market in the Ueno district

There is no one recipe common throughout the country but instead, each region will have its own variation of the dish, using local ingredients. 

The dish is so popular that it is found both in local convenience stores as well as in upscale restaurants.

Here we will tell you about 15 different versions of donburi rice bowls that are popular throughout Japan.

1. Konoha-don

This dish is from the Kansai region of Japan. 

Traditionally the dish is made using a bowl filled with rice and adding thin fish cakes, eggs and mushrooms. The raw egg is laid over the cooked rice and the steam from the rice cooks the egg until it is ready to eat.

Scallions are sometimes added to the dish as well as seaweed and tofu which aim to enhance the flavor of the dish. The name “konoha” is a reference to tree leaves that have similarities to the fish cakes used in this recipe.

2. Tamagodon

This version of a donburi rice bowl begins with a bowl of fresh, fluffy rice which is then topped with egg. Unlike the Konoha-don, the Tamagodon uses pre-cooked fluffy eggs in the form of an omelet. This omelet is enriched with the flavors of onion, mirin, soy sauce, and dashi. 

This dish is typically topped with nori cut in fine strips and spring onions.

3. Negitorodon

This light and refreshing version of a donburi bowl is made using fatty tuna that is served raw over rice. The tuna is finely sliced and mixed with other ingredients in order to harmonize the overall flavor of the fish and rice.

These other ingredients include soy sauce, green onions, and wasabi. However, there are a number of other ingredients that are typically added to this dish including seaweed, sesame seeds, and egg yolk.

4. Shirasu don

From the Kanagawa prefecture, this version of a donburi rice bowl is made with baby sardines, herring, and sand lances. This seafood-orientated bowl makes for a lighter meal. 

You can choose to eat the fish any way that you want including boiled, dried, or raw but with each version, soy sauce is typically added. 

The overall taste of the fish is salty, but not overpoweringly so. The dish is normally topped with seaweed, leeks, and Japanese herbs.

5. Ikuradon

This version of a donburi rice bowl is deceptively simple, but delicious. Here the rice bowl is topped with salmon roe (also known as ikura). 

In order to enrich its flavor, the salmon roe is normally marinated in a mixture of mirin, sake, and soy sauce. The flavor of just the rice and salmon roe is rich enough on its own but many people prefer to add to the complexity of the dish by adding raw egg yolk and/or seaweed.

6. Chukadon

Originating in the 1930s, Chukadon is a dish of hot stir-fried vegetables served on a bed of fluffy rice. This dish can contain any mixture of vegetables that the person desires as well as the addition of seafood or meat. 

The toppings are stir-fried in a soy sauce-based sauce that is starchy and thick. The ease of this dish means that it is very popular all throughout the country.

7. Tekkadon

Tekkadon is another fish-based donburi rice bowl that is a hit with locals in Japan. The dish consists of vinegar-flavored rice which is then topped with tuna that is prepared sashimi-style and raw. 

Tekkadon is normally then garnished using nori strips and accompanied with a small amount of soy sauce. 

This dish is often confused with a similar dish called “maguro zuke don”, which uses marinated tuna and comes without a side of sauce.

8. Unadon

Unadon is a version of the donburi rice bowl that is topped with grilled eel (also known as unagi). The eel is prepared kabayaki-style, meaning that the eel is cut, gutted, and then butterflied, separated into squares, placed on a skewer, and then covered in tare sauce and grilled.

Tare sauce is made by using mirin, soy sauce, sugar, and sake. This sauce caramelizes on the eel during the grilling process. Typically, this eel is then garnished with sansho berries. 

If you prefer a texture that is more tender then you can steam the eel before grilling it.

9. Tenshindon

Tenshindon is a dish that can be considered a donburi dish if we broaden the category. The dish is a combination of rice, omelet, and crab meat. 

The omelet also contains negi onions, sliced ginger, peas, and mushroom. However, these ingredients can be added or omitted as desired. 

The bowl of rice is covered with the omelet and is then topped with a thick sauce made from vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, rice wine, chicken broth, oyster sauce, and starch. Ketchup is also sometimes added to the mixture. 

10. Butadon

Butadon is a Japanese dish that consists of a bowl of rice, soy sauce, and fatty pork that is sliced. This version of donburi originally came from Obihiro and was invented by Mr. Abe who works at the Pancho restaurant. His desire for the Japanese to eat more pork in 1933 led to the creation of this dish.

Butadon is also commonly topped with peas and onions.

11. Kaisendon

Kaisendon is one of the most popular rice and seafood dishes throughout all of Japan. This dish has a mixture of different seafood (sashimi) over a bowl of fluffy rice. This dish often changes slightly depending on the season and the fresh seafood that is available.

Some of the ingredients that are commonly found in Kaisendon include tuna, sea bream, scallops, deep-water shrimp, crab, sea urchin, and marinated salmon roe.

In addition to the seafood, Kaisendon is also adorned with nori, ginger, Japanese basil, onions, cucumber, soy sauce, sesame seeds, wasabi, and even white radish sprouts.

12. Katsudon

This dish is topped with a popular food in Japan – tonkatsu. Tonkatsu is a pork filet that has been breaded and deep-fried. For Katsudon the tonkatsu is also cooked alongside a myriad of vegetables and egg.

The original version of this recipe dates back to 1921 but there have since been a wide number of different versions. 

You can find versions that use chicken or beef instead of pork but most use a marinating sauce of miso, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce.

13. Tendon

Tendon is a combination of donburi and tempura. Just as its name suggests this delicious dish is a combination of rice and tempura (either seafood, vegetables, or both). 

Shrimp is a very popular topping of choice as is nasu (Japanese eggplant) and squash. However, you can use any combination of fish and vegetables that you like. 

The dish is normally served with a tempura sauce called tensuyu. This sauce is made by mixing mirin, soy sauce, and sugar.

14. Gyudon

Gyudon is one of the cheapest foods that you can find available in Japan and is widely available. The name “Gyudon” roughly equates to “beef bowl”. 

The dish consists of a bowl of rice that is topped with Japanese beef and onions which are cooked in mirin, sake, sugar, and soy sauce. This sauce gives the dish its tasty sweet and salty flavor. 

At most restaurants where this dish is served, there is red ginger and chili available so that you can customize your dish to your liking.

15. Oyakodon

This is a dish made from both egg and chicken (and references this is the name, Father and Child). The bowl of rice is adorned with eggs, chicken, and scallions. 

The rice is topped with partially-cooked rice which is then finished off by the steam from the rice. This dish is quick to make, meaning it is very popular for lunchtime in Japan. 

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.