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Donburi - Everything Over Rice!

As we continue exploring Japanese food culture, we learn about one of the most popular dishes in Japan: donburi. Donburi (don 丼 meaning bowl in Japanese) is as wide a category in Japanese cuisine as pasta is for Italian food. There are lots of dishes that you might know which fall under this category: katsudon, gyudon, butadon, and so on.

While the literal meaning might refer to the bowl, donburi generally means something served over a bowl of rice. One donburi dish that has a comical origin would be oyakodon. Oyakodon is a cooked mixture of chicken, onions, and egg seasoned with soy sauce and other ingredients which is then served over rice. What makes this interesting is that oyakodon literally means “parent-and-child donburi”, aka chicken and the egg!  My personal favorite donburi dish is certainly gyudon, which is thin strips of beef and onion cooked in a slightly sweet sauce over rice. Yoshinoya is the most famous brand associated with gyudon, as this is a common comfort food served across Japan.

We can also think of donburi as an all-in-one meal. Throughout the last few centuries in Japan through to present day, donburi was a very popular meal for those traveling or unable to access food easily at work. In urban areas across Japan, most businesses are within walking distance of a donburi shop where workers can pop in to grab a quick lunch. Katsudon, which is a fried pork cutlet with egg served over rice, is a common food for students to eat before a test. Why? “Katsu” has two meanings - fried pork cutlet and also the verb “katsu” which means “to win”.

One of the most attractive qualities of donburi is that there are no restrictions other than serving it over a bowl of rice. It may sound like adding some meat on top of plain white rice would be a bit flavorless, but that is far from the truth. Foods like gyudon and oyakodon are cooked in a sauce which is then purposefully added over the rice as well, infusing the white rice in the sauce.

Donburi is also a cheap and filling meal, as the majority of the dish is inexpensive rice. It is a great way to use up leftovers.

While it might be easy to choose sushi or ramen at a Japanese restaurant, next time give donburi a try! In many authentic Japanese restaurants, it will have its own section of the menu. It may seem like a simple dish; however, you will surely see what all the fuss is about.

Here are a few of our favorite places to try donburi across Houston:

Hokkaido (9108 Bellaire Blvd Houston, TX)

Toyori (9889 Bellaire Blvd)

Sasaki (8979 Westheimer Rd),

Nippon (4464 Montrose Blvd)

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