Japan’s classic comfort-food: Donburi
During my first visit to Japan in the Fall of 2012, there were many different dishes I wanted to try: curry, ramen, soba, tempura and udon, just to name a few. High on my list was one of Japan’s most common dishes: donburi, also known as a ‘rice bowl dish’. A one-bowl meal of rice and a savory topping that is affordable, readily available and/or easy to prepare at home: staple food for any student or salaryman(which is what business man called in Japan), regardless of the time of day.
A typical Gyudon (Beef Bowl) from the Japanese fast-food chain Yoshinoya
While on exchange in Nagoya in 2012, I went and ate many donburi at local restaurants as well as Japanese fast-food chains such as Yoshinoya, Matsuya and Sukiya. The relatively low price was one thing, but what made me come back to eat different donburi time and time again is the simple fact of placing food on rice. Being used to a more Chinese cuisine-oriented way of eating rice, where placing food on rice is normal, it took a while to get used to the Japanese way of eating rice. In Japanese cuisine rice is, traditionally, served in its own small bowl as different flavoured dishes are not supposed to touch each other to preserve their unique flavours.
A Kaisendon (Sashimi on Rice) at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo
Although I’ve now gotten used to eating white rice on its own, at the time it was a tough thing to do, which made my frequent donburi meals a real treat. What made it possible to eat a donburi so frequently, however, is the variety of donburi dishes. For fans of beef, there is Gyudon (Beef Bowl). You prefer chicken over beef? Oyakodon (Chicken and Egg on Rice) is for you. Really craving some seafood? Kaisendon (Sashimi on Rice), Tekkadon (Tuna on Rice) or Ikuradon (Salmon Roe on Rice) are what you are looking for. Want to combine the best of two worlds? There are multiple answers to that: Tendon (Tempura on Rice), Karedon (Curry on Rice) and Chukadon (Chinese-style Rice Bowl), among others.
A Takodon (Octopus on Rice) at a local restaurant on Awaji Island
As I’m now living on Awaji Island, I get to try more local donburi, such as Shirasudon (Small Sardines on Rice) and Takodon (Octopus on Rice). These can be eaten elsewhere in Japan as well, but are more readily available in certain areas, such as Awaji Island.
While it is a joy to travel around and experience the variety in Japanese cuisine, particularly when it comes to local dishes, do not overlook the simple, yet surprisingly tasty Donburi dishes.