When I was a poor college student, one of my favorite places to eat is Yoshinoya, the Japanese fast-food chain specializing in rice bowls, or donburi. If you have tried Yoshinoya, you will know that gyudon, or simmered beef with onion served on top of a bowl of warm steamed rice is their signature dish. As a starving student, gyudon was my perfect meal and I enjoyed eating it. The beef bowl has pretty much launched the Yoshinoya restaurant empire, now with over 1,400 locations in Japan and the world!
Gyudon (牛丼) is a popular dish in Japan. Packed in bento boxes, disposable styrofoam bowl or plastic boxes, gyudon can be can be found pretty much anywhere in Japan: train stations, food section at supermarkets, or local convenient stores such as 7-Eleven. It’s also a homey dish that many Japanese home cooks prepare at home. The reason is simple: gyudon is delicious and makes a filling meal. The cooking method of gyudon is very similar to sukiyaki donburi, a recipe that I have shared a couple of months ago. With gyudon, it’s actually easier, with easy-to-find everyday ingredients, but the taste is equally tantalizing.
When I first started learning about Japanese cooking, my Japanese friend told me that there are four key ingredients in Japanese cuisine: soy sauce, mirin, sake, and dashi (bonito and kelp stock). She also told me to get a good dashi-based soy sauce or soup base. She said that once I have mastered the harmony of these four key ingredients, I would have mastered basic Japanese recipes. She is absolutely right. Nowsdays, I never run out of my Mizkan Honteri Mirin and Mizkan (Bonito Flavored) Soup Base.
I find gyudon especially hearty and satisfying during the cold fall/winter months. Make a big batch of steamed rice and the simmered beef. When you are ready for dinner, scoop a generous portion of the beef on top of the rice and let the simmered sauce absorbed into the rice. Everyone has a Japanese beef bowl in their hands as they eagerly shovel the beef, onion and rice into their mouth. For the adventurous eater, crack a raw egg on top of the gyudon. If you have leftover, pack it into a bento for your loved ones the next morning.
Gyudon makes a happy meal in my family. Try my gyudon recipe and I hope your family will enjoy it, too.