Gyudon: Delicious Japanese Donburi Bowl with Beef and Rice
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Japan is known for savory rice bowl dishes called donburi. My favorite? That’s got to be gyudon!
Gyudon is a Japanese donburi (rice bowl) dish made with beef and rice. The beef is typically simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and dashi before being served on top of a bowl of rice. The dish is typically garnished with shredded scallions and sometimes a soft-boiled egg.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything about gyudon, including the ingredients, serving methods, origins, health benefits, and more.
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In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is gyudon?
- 2 What does “gyudon” mean?
- 3 What are the main ingredients in gyudon?
- 4 What meat is gyudon?
- 5 How do you slice beef for gyudon?
- 6 What is gyudon sauce made of?
- 7 What does gyudon taste like?
- 8 How to cook gyudon
- 9 How to serve and eat gyudon?
- 10 What’s the origin of gyudon?
- 11 What’s the difference between gyudon and yakiniku don?
- 12 What’s the difference between gyudon and beef misono?
- 13 What’s the difference between gyudon and sukiyaki?
- 14 Types of gyudon
- 15 Popular gyudon seasoning
- 16 Popular gyudon pairings
- 17 Popular toppings for gyudon
- 18 Where to eat gyudon?
- 19 Gyudon etiquette
- 20 Is gyudon healthy?
- 21 Similar dishes
- 22 Conclusion
What is gyudon?
Gyūdon, also known as gyūmeshi, is a Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced beef and onions simmered in a sweet sauce that contains dashi, soy sauce and mirin.
The gyudon pronunciation is ghee-don.
It is served on top of steamed white rice, either as a single bowl or accompanied by other sides such as miso soup and pickles.
Gyudon is a type of Japanese rice bowl dish which is known as donburi.
It has become popular throughout Japan, and is often served as a fast food option in convenience stores and restaurants alike.
Enjoying gyudon is a great way to experience the flavors of traditional Japanese cuisine!
Gyudon can be served as a single dish or accompanied by other sides such as miso soup, Japanese pickles, and even a side of tempura.
The combination of the beef with rice makes for a hearty and satisfying meal that can be enjoyed any time of the day!
Learn to make this delicious dish at home using my easy gyudon recipe.
What does “gyudon” mean?
The Japanese word gyu means beef and don means bowl, so gyudon literally translates to “beef bowl”.
The man who invented the dish, Eikichi Matsuda, chose the name gyudon as a play on words.
He wanted to create a name that would make people remember the dish, so he chose a name that contained the word “don” (bowl).
The name has become iconic, and it is now a popular dish all over Japan.
What are the main ingredients in gyudon?
The main ingredients of Gyudon are beef, onions, dashi (Japanese fish and seaweed broth), soy sauce, mirin, and sometimes sake.
The beef is usually sliced thin for faster cooking and to make the dish more tender.
The gyudon may occasionally also be topped with ingredients such kimchi, spring onions, kimchi, raw or soft-poached eggs, Shichimi togarashi, or grated cheese.
A sweet and salty umami sauce is the base for this dish – simmering the beef slices in this sauce makes the beef soft and tender.
On top of that, onions are cooked in the same pan to add a sweet and savory flavor to the dish.
What meat is gyudon?
Gyudon is a traditional beef dish.Usually, it’s cooked with ribeye or chuck that has been sliced extremely thin or shaved thin using a meat slicer or special Japanese slicing knife like a sujihiki.
The key to making the best gyudon is to use very thinly sliced beef – no more than 3-4mm thickness.
This ensures that the beef cooks very quickly and evenly, allowing it to absorb all of the delicious flavors from the sweet sauce.
The best beef cuts for gyudon are:
- top sirloin
Good meat for gyudon can be found in Japanese supermarkets, but if you can’t find any of those, any beef meant for Philly cheesesteaks will do.
Some people also use frozen beef and slice it very thin or pound it with a kitchen mallet.
How do you slice beef for gyudon?
The best way to slice the beef for gyudon is to use a very sharp knife and cut it into very thin strips that are no more than 3-4mm thick.
You can also use a special Japanese slicing knife called a sujihiki, which is specifically designed for slicing meat and seafood.
Another way is to freeze the meat and then shave it with a meat slicer.
This is the preferred method for restaurants and professional chefs, as it produces very thin and even slices that cook quickly.
What is gyudon sauce made of?
The gyudon sauce is made with dashi (Japanese soup stock), sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar, The flavor of the sauce is a combination of sweet and savory.
Each region makes the gyudon a bit differently.
Sometimes other ingredients are added to the sauce like Worcestershire sauce, garlic, ginger, and even fruits like apples or oranges.
The sauce is simmered with the meat and vegetables in order to create a delicious, flavorful dish.
Japanese gyudon sauce is also sold in a bottled version.
Ebara Gyudon Japanese Beef Bowl No Tare Sauce is a popular brand of gyudon sauce that is used to make the base sauce for the beef.
What does gyudon taste like?
The best way to describe the flavor of gyudon is sweet and salty. There is a slight umami flavor from the dashi and soy sauce, while the sweetness comes from the mirin and sugar.
Steamed rice is quite bland flavored so the sweet and salty flavor of the gyudon sauce helps to bring out the sweetness and savoriness of the beef.
The onions also add a slight sweetness and crunch to the dish.
Crunchier toppings like kimchi, spring onions, and eggs add an extra dimension to the dish.
How to cook gyudon
Making gyudon is relatively simple even for amateur cooks.
First, the onion and spring onion is sliced. The beef is also sliced into very thin strips.
Next, a pan is heated and all the liquid ingredients are added to it. This includes the mirin, soy sauce, sake, and dashi.
The onions and beef are then added to the pan and cooked until it’s just done. The meat shouldn’t be overcooked but it should be browned.
Finally, the gyudon is served on top of steamed rice and topped with the preferred toppings.
How to serve and eat gyudon?
Gyudon is served in a “don,” a traditional Japanese bowl used to serve rice.
The rice is placed at the bottom of the bowl and then hot beef and sauce is poured over it.
Toppings such as raw or soft-poached eggs, shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice seasoning), grated cheese, kimchi, pickled red ginger, and green onions can be added for extra flavor.
For a complete meal, gyudon is usually accompanied with Japanese pickles, such as takuan or gari, and a side dish such as tempura.
It is also common to add Japanese condiments such as mayonnaise or tonkatsu sauce.
Chopsticks are used to mix the rice with the meat and sauce and eat the gyudon. It’s also very common for gyudon to be eaten with a spoon.
In American and Western fast food restaurants, gyudon is served with a spoon and fork. The spoon is used to eat the rice, while the fork is used to scoop out the beef and sauce.
What’s the origin of gyudon?
Gyudon has been Japanese favorite for over 150 years. It originates from another beef dish called gyunabe. The gyunabe (牛鍋) was a traditional beef hot pot which was popular in the Meiji Era (1868-1912).
Up until the Meiji Era, beef was prohibited for most of Japan’s history due to religious reasons. After the ban was lifted, beef dishes like gyunabe spread throughout Japan.
In the late 19th century, when Western culture was introduced to Japan, gyunabe, or beef and onion cooked in miso paste, gained enormous popularity.
Yokohama’s Isekuma izakaya’s chef reportedly served gyunabe for the first time in 1862.
Home cooks and chefs started adding leftover gyunabe soup to rice, and soon eateries started offering this as a less expensive option called “gyumeshi.”
The dish eventually evolved into gyudon, which is a simpler version of gyunabe that can be cooked much faster.
Eikichi Matsuda, proprietor of the renowned “Yoshinoya” beef bowl establishment in the late 1800s, gave the dish the name “gyudon.”
Gyudon gained popularity as the Yoshinoya franchise expanded in the 1970s, and many other businesses started creating their own gyudon recipes.
What’s the difference between gyudon and yakiniku don?
Yakiniku don is a popular Japanese rice bowl dish made with grilled beef slices.
The beef for Yakiniku Don is first grilled or pan-fried, unlike Gyudon. Then, served on a bowl of rice and topped with the “Yakiniku no Tare” sauce.
Yakiniku Don is a very simple donburi meal to make because supermarkets in Japan typically provide a variety of ready-made Yakiniku no Tare sauces.
So the main difference is that gyudon is a beef dish simmered in a sweet and savory sauce whereas yakiniku don is a beef dish grilled with a special yakiniku sauce.
Gyudon takes less time to prepare and requires fewer ingredients, making it a great option for busy weeknights.
Yakiniku don is usually served as an appetizer or snack and has more
What’s the difference between gyudon and beef misono?
Beef misono is a classic Japanese dish made with thinly sliced beef cooked in a Teppanyaki style.
It’s similar to gyudon, as it is served with steamed rice and a variety of toppings.
The main difference between gyudon and beef misono is that beef misono is grilled beef and not served with so much sauce.
Beef misono is actually a Filipino-Japanese dish which is made by marinating steak slices with garlic, soy sauce and sugar.
The marinated steak is then cooked in a teppanyaki-style, which is a cooking style where the ingredients are cooked on an iron griddle.
What’s the difference between gyudon and sukiyaki?
Gyudon is a donburi rice bowl prepared by briefly simmering beef and onion in a sauce made of mirin and soy.
Similar to shabu-shabu and hot pot, sukiyaki is a dish that is customarily served in a shallow cast iron pot and is produced by simmering thinly sliced pork or beef with a variety of vegetables in a mirin and soy sauce.
So sukiyaki is a hot pot dish whereas gyudon is a donburi dish.
In gyudon, the meat and vegetables are cooked separately in a sauce and then added to steamed rice. In sukiyaki, the meat and vegetables are cooked together in a broth.
In terms of flavor, gyudon is sweeter and has a more intense flavor as it is simmered in a sweet and savory sauce.
Types of gyudon
As with most Japanese dishes, there are a few regional variations.
Let’s look at the most popular types of beef gyudon:
The traditional gyudon is known as Kanto style. It is the dashi, mirin, soy sauce and sweet sake mixture that gives it its signature flavor.
This style is usually served with thinly sliced onions and pickled ginger on top.
When most people think of Gyudon, they’re referring to the Kanto-style classic recipe.
This is another popular version of gyudon. It is made with simmered beef and onions in a sweetened soy sauce.
It’s different from Kanto-style because it doesn’t always include dashi stock so it’s less umami.
The Kansai gyudon is preferred by locals because of its sweet and savory flavor. It is the classic onion, mirin, and soy beef combination that defines gyudon as a dish.
Kansai Sukiyaki-Style Gyudon
This type of gyudon is quite unusual. It is similar to Kansai-style but with the addition of sukiyaki ingredients.
But what makes it special is that the beef is seasoned with sugar while it’s still uncooked, then cooked separately before it’s boiled with the other ingredients.
This variation is made with beef, onion, and ginger simmered in a sweet and savory dashi-based sauce. The beef is cooked until it’s tender and the sauce is thickened with a combination of cornstarch and tofu.
The Eastern-style gyudon is a popular choice in the Kanto and Kansai region but it’s not always on the menus.
Gyudon with Eggs
Egg is a classic topping for gyudon. In Japan, they sometimes serve raw egg on the top of gyudon.
In most Western countries, restaurants are not allowed to serve raw egg to diners so they usually use cooked egg instead.
The cooked/poached egg is typically fried and added to the gyudon before serving it with steamed rice and beefy sauce.
There’s also an egg version where the egg is semi-cooked but still runny.
Another option is to make gyudon by adding a beaten egg to the hot sauce and beef mixture before serving. This adds a creamy flavor and texture to the food.
Popular gyudon seasoning
Liquid condiments and seasoning like mirin, sake, soy sauce, and dashi are used to flavor gyudon.
However, there are also popular seasoning mixes that make it easy for anyone to make a delicious gyudon at home.
Karashi-Mentsuyu is a popular dry seasoning mix used to flavor gyudon. It is a combination of mirin, sake, soy sauce and other seasonings.
Other popular gyudon seasonings include Mirin Tare, which is a sweet and salty seasoning blend made with mirin, sake, sugar and soy sauce.
There’s also Gyudon no Tare, which is a savory seasoning blend that includes konbu, shoyu and sugar.
Popular gyudon pairings
Gyudon is a popular, comforting dish that pairs well with other Japanese dishes.
One of the most classic pairings for gyudon is miso soup. The warm, savory broth of the miso soup helps to balance out the sweet and salty flavors of a gyudon bowl.
Takikomi gohan, which is a seasoned rice dish made with vegetables, is another popular side dish for gyudon for those who don’t want simple steamed white rice.
The combination of the steamed rice and the savory beef stew makes a perfect meal.
Gyudon is also often served with a side of pickles and shredded cabbage. The tartness and crunchiness of these two sides help to balance out the heavier flavors of the beef.
Egg is another popular topping for gyudon. Whether it’s cooked in the stew or served as a raw egg, it offers an extra layer of flavor and texture.
Some people also like to eat their gyudon with a side of daikon oroshi, which is grated daikon radish mixed with soy sauce and chili peppers.
The spiciness of the chili pepper helps to cut through the richness of the beef and create a more flavorful dish.
Popular toppings for gyudon
- red pickled ginger (beni shoga)
- Japanese 7 spice
- green onions
- grated cheese
- onsen tamago (soft-boiled egg)
- shredded cabbage
- mixed mushrooms
- mayonnaise (Japanese kewpie mayo)
- seaweed flakes (aonori)
Where to eat gyudon?
Gyudon is a popular dish in Japan and can be found at restaurants specializing in Japanese cuisine.
It’s also a popular menu item at many fast food chains such as Yoshinoya, Matsuya and Sukiya.
In addition, some convenience stores in Japan also sell gyudon and it’s a great option for those who want a quick, inexpensive meal.
Gyudon is becoming increasingly popular in many Western countries, so it’s now available at some Japanese restaurants outside of Japan.
Like many other Japanese dishes, gyudon is typically eaten with chopsticks.
There are no special etiquette rules for rice bowls because they’re meant to be consumed pretty fast as a quick lunch or dinner meal.
When adding condiments or seasoning to the dish, it’s important to be careful not to add too much. Gyudon should be seasoned lightly so the beef flavor still comes through.
Is gyudon healthy?
Those curious about the health benefits of gyudon will be glad to know it’s quite a healthy meal option.
Gyudon is a great option for those looking for a healthier meal. It is high in protein and has many essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, and magnesium.
The presence of onions in the dish adds an extra boost of vitamins A and C.
Due to its low-calorie content, it can also help people manage their weight. Gyudon is also a great source of carbohydrates, which provides energy for the body.
The beef used in gyudon can also be a great source of protein and a source of iron and zinc, which are important minerals for overall health.
Gyudon is often compared to the similarly popular Japanese dish called yakiniku-don. Yakiniku-don is a rice bowl topped with grilled beef, vegetables and other toppings.
The main difference between these two dishes is that gyudon consists of simmered beef while yakiniku-don consists of grilled and/or barbecued beef.
Additionally, gyudon is usually served with a sweet and savory sauce whereas yakiniku-don relies more heavily on soy-based sauces for flavor.
These two dishes are both traditional Japanese favorites that have become popular throughout the world!
Another simmered beef dish similar to gyudon is called sukiyaki. Sukiyaki consists of a hot pot filled with beef, vegetables and other ingredients simmered in a soy-based broth.
While it is similar to gyudon in its use of beef, sukiyaki is typically served with a sweeter and thicker sauce.
Sukiyaki is also usually served with shirataki noodles, egg, and condiments such as grated daikon radish and scallions.
Gyudon is a delicious and easy-to-make Japanese dish made with thinly sliced beef, onions, and dashi stock.
Since it’s simmered, the beef becomes tender and juicy and the onions add a sweet and savory flavor to the dish.
Gyudon is often served as a single dish or with other accompaniments such as rice, pickles, and miso soup. It is a Japanese umami-flavored way to enjoy beef and rice.
Rather have something Filipino? Here is how you make Tapsilog Recipe (Beef Tapa Original recipe with rice)
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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.