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Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl) 牛丼

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    Thinly sliced beef simmered with tender onions, savory-sweet sauce, and egg, Gyudon is synonymous with comfort. It has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for over 150 years!

    Gyudon in a bowl and pickles on a side.

    Gyudon (牛丼) is classic comfort food that has had its place in Japanese cuisine for over 150 years. Not only is this hearty rice bowl extremely simple to put together, it’s also famous for being a quick, nutritious meal that never fails to satisfy.

    While every household in Japan makes gyudon a little differently, the core ingredients remain the same: thin slices of beef, onion, egg, and a sweet and savory sauce served over a hot bed of rice. Today, I’ll show you how I make this weeknight favorite at home.

    What is Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl)?

    Like other donburi, Gyudon, or Japanese Beef Bowl, is always served over a warm bowl of freshly steamed rice. “Gyu” (牛) translates to “beef” while “Don” (丼) refers to the type of bowl it’s served in.

    In Japan, gyudon is occasionally served with a raw egg yolk or a poached egg (Onsen Tamago) placed in the center of the simmered beef. Breaking the yolk and mixing it into the beef and onions adds a layer of richness to this meal that simply can’t be beat. Since raw eggs are not recommended for consumption in the U.S., I suggest going with the Onsen Tamago recipe to be safe.

    Yoshinoya Beef Bowl (Gyudon 牛丼) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

    History of Gyudon in Japan

    The gyudon that we know and love today actually originated from a beef hot pot dish called “gyunabe” (牛鍋) during Japan’s Meiji Era (1868-1912). Up until this point, Japanese people were strictly prohibited from eating beef for both religious and practical reasons. Consuming meat went against Buddhist philosophies, and eating farm animals that were useful for work was largely discouraged.

    Once Western culture was introduced to Japan in the late 19th century, gyunabe—beef and onion stewed with miso paste—became extremely popular. Apparently, the chef of an izakaya called Isekuma in my hometown of Yokohama was the first person to serve gyunabe in 1862! People began pouring their leftover gyunabe broth over rice, and soon restaurants began to serve this as a cheaper alternative called “gyumeshi” (牛飯).

    The name “gyudon” was finally coined by Eikichi Matsuda in the late 1800s. Matsuda is the owner of Japan’s most famous Tokyo-based, beef bowl chain, Yoshinoya. If you want to make gyudon just like they do at Yoshinoya, I have a recipe here (The main difference is the use of dashi).

    Gyudon in a bowl and pickles on a side.

    Ingredients for Authentic Gyudon

    Gyudon in Japan is known to be a quick, tasty meal that is also cheap. It was most popular among business people and young, single men before reaching the general Japanese public. The ingredients to make this one-pot dish at home are quite simple.

    • Thinly sliced beef: For this recipe, I recommend chuck or rib eye. The paper-thin slices are essential for achieving authentic gyudon (too thick, and your beef will be chewy), and you can often find packages of this cut at Japanese supermarkets.
    • Onion: Sliced onion is the first thing to enter the pan and cooked until soft. It’s a perfect pair with the tender beef and sauce added soon after.
    • Sauce: The sauce for gyudon is a complementary balance of sweet and savory, made with soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and sake. So simple and highly effective in creating robust flavor!
    • Egg: My gyudon recipe is similar to my mom’s (she doesn’t use dashi in her gyudon), where we add beaten eggs to the pan just before serving. Rather than having a whole egg sit on top of the meat, this method adds a nice layer of fluffy egg integrated with the beef mixture.

    Yoshinoya Beef Bowl, Gyudon in a bowl and miso soup.

    How to Make (Kansai-Style) Gyudon

    This gyudon recipe is based on how my mother makes her gyudon. She’s originally from Osaka, so the way she makes gyudon is similar to how she makes her Ksansai-style sukiyaki. The signature is to sprinkle sugar on beef while it’s still raw and cook the meat first before simmering with other seasonings.

    Here are the 5 quick steps:

    1. Stir fry onion slices until tender – the onion releases moisture and sweetness.
    2. Add beef and sugar and cook until no longer pink.
    3. Season the beef and onion with condiments and simmer.
    4. Optionally, you can add egg and cook until no longer runny.
    5. Serve over steamed rice, and enjoy!

    Tips to Make Delicious Gyudon

    • Cook the onion until tender – When the onion is cooked, it gives a natural sweetness to the dish. Don’t add the beef until the onion is tender.
    • Check the flavor after you add all the seasonings – The egg will dilute the flavor a bit, so you may want to add more seasonings if you prefer a stronger taste.
    • Remove the frying pan from the heat when the egg is no longer runny -Remaining heat will continue to cook, so don’t overcook the egg.

    If you enjoy Japanese rice bowls, here are some other popular donburi recipes for you to try at home.

    Gyudon, Beef Rice Bowl in a bowl.

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    4.69 from 133 votes
    Gyudon (Beef Bowl) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com
    Gyudon
    Prep Time
    5 mins
    Cook Time
    15 mins
    Total Time
    20 mins
     

    Thinly sliced beef simmered with tender onions, savory-sweet sauce, and egg, Gyudon is synonymous with comfort. It has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for over 150 years!

    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Japanese
    Keyword: beef, donburi, rice bowl
    Servings: 3
    Author: Namiko Chen
    Ingredients
    • 1 onion (4 oz, 113 g)
    • 2 green onions/scallions
    • ¾ lb thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye) (12 oz)
    • 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
    • 3 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell) (beaten; optional)
    For the Sauce
    • 1 Tbsp sugar (adjust according to your preference)
    • 2 Tbsp sake (substitute with dry sherry or Chinese rice wine; for a non-alcoholic sub, use water)
    • 2 Tbsp mirin (substitute with 2 Tbsp sake/water + 2 tsp sugar)
    • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
    To Serve
    Instructions
    1. Gather all the ingredients.

      Gyudon Ingredients
    2. Thinly slice the onions, cut the green onions into thin slices (save for garnish), and cut the meat into 3" (7.6 cm) pieces.

      Gyudon 1
    3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the onion until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

      Gyudon 2
    4. Add the meat and sugar to the pan, and cook until meat is no longer pink.

      Gyudon 3
    5. Add sake, mirin, and soy sauce.

      Gyudon 4
    6. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

      Gyudon 5
    7. If you like to add the egg, slowly drizzle the beaten egg over the beef. Cook covered until the egg is almost done (don't overcook it). Remove from the heat.

      Gyudon 6
    8. In a large donburi bowl, add steamed rice and put the beef and egg mixture on top. If you'd like, drizzle over remaining sauce. Top with green onion and pickled red ginger. Enjoy!

      Gyudon (Beef Rice Bowl) | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com
    To Store
    1. You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days and in the freezer for up to 3-4 weeks.

    Editor’s Note: Pictures updated in August 2012

    Make It Into A Meal

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