Donburi is the Japanese word for a large bowl. Sometimes spelled “domburi," the word also refers to a type of Japanese food that consists of a large bowl of plain, white rice with one or more toppings. For such a simple dish, donburi has many interpretations. Toppings may be made from any kind of meat, seafood, or vegetables, which may be prepared in a variety of ways and sometimes include a sauce. There are, however, specific types of donburi dishes that are named according to the ingredients in the toppings.
The word donburi is shortened to the suffix “-don" for the names of these specific dishes. One of the most common examples is gyudon, which means “beef bowl." To prepare gyudon, thinly sliced beef and onions are simmered with soy sauce and mirin, a sweet sake cooking wine. Another donburi favorite is oyakodon. The name means “mother and child bowl," which refers to its main ingredients, chicken and egg.
Donburi may also be served with deep-fried toppings. One popular example is katsudon, a bowl of rice topped with a breaded pork cutlet. Donburi may also be topped with tempura. This dish is called tendon and typically features breaded, deep-fried shrimp and vegetables.
Some dishes are topped with raw ingredients. Kaisendon is topped with sashimi, which are thin slices of raw fish. For this dish, the fish is served over sushi rice seasoned with sweetened vinegar and a side of soy sauce. Tekka-don, another raw dish, is topped with spicy tuna. A similar version of this dish is negitoro don, fatty tuna belly with spring onions.
Donburi is especially popular as a fast food lunch or a late-night meal. In Japan, there are many restaurant franchises where donburi is readily available, inexpensive, and quickly served. The most popular donburi restaurants in Japan are Yoshinoya, Matsuya, and Sushiya. Yoshinoya was founded in 1899 and has since expanded its franchise to countries throughout Asia, as well as to New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas in the United States.
Donburi recipes vary from one region to the next, and the simmering sauces may change according to the seasons. Some Chinese restaurants in Japan serve their own versions, called chukadon or gomoku. A dish known as makanaidon is popular as an after-hours meal for restaurant employees, with the day’s leftovers served over a generous bowl of rice. In home kitchens, donburi is also a popular comfort food for many Japanese families.