Gyudon is a traditional comfort food that has been a part of Japanese cuisine for more than 150 years. This filling rice bowl is renowned for being a speedy, filling dinner that requires little preparation and is incredibly simple to make.
The basic components for gyudon are the same in all Japanese homes, notwithstanding slight variations: Steamed rice is served with thin beef pieces, onions, and a sweet-and-salty sauce.
Preparing the dish
For good gyudon, there are a few essentials. Obtaining the beef must come first. The meat used to make it is often ribeye or chuck that has been sliced extremely thinly. If you don’t have access to Japanese supermarkets, any beef used for Philly cheesesteaks will do (even frozen!). However, you can find good meat for gyudon there. A chuck steak can also be purchased, frozen until it is quite firm but not completely solid, and then sliced as thinly as possible with a knife. If the meat ends up tearing a little, that’s acceptable. We’re not aiming for perfection here.
I prefer to slice the onions into slivers as opposed to rings by using a radial cut. Then, with the knife angled so that it is always cutting toward the middle of the onion, I put each onion half flat on the cutting board and slice it from pole to pole.
After cutting the onions into slices, I put them in a saucepan and cover them with a mixture of sake, soy sauce, sugar, and dashi (the fundamental Japanese broth made with kelp and smoked bonito). If you like braised daikon, you might also add slices of daikon radish now, along with the onions. Just after the onions are cooked through, everything simmers together.
The beef is then added. It will cook rapidly and almost immediately lose its red colour because it is so thinly sliced. The idea is to completely boil everything until the liquid is reduced to a sauce with a strong taste that permeates the meat. This can take hours with a standard braise. It takes only a few minutes when using the thinly shaved meat in gyudon. In order to retain some of the fresh heat of the ginger, I prefer to stir in some grated ginger during the final few minutes of cooking.
After the beef has finished cooking, I divide it among many bowls of rice. Although you can eat it plain, I prefer to top mine with a small mound of hot beni-shoga (pickled ginger), some sliced scallions, and a dash of togarashi (Japanese chile powder).
- 1 small-sized onion, slivered
- 1/2 cup (120ml) homemade dashi, or the equivalent in Hondashi
- 1/4 cup (60ml) dry sake
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar, plus more to taste
- 225g thinly shaved beef ribeye or chuck steak
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 cups cooked white rice
- 2 large poached eggs (optional)
- Sliced scallions
- In a medium saucepan or saucier, combine the onion, dashi, sake, soy sauce, and sugar. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically, until the onion is tender.
- Add the meat, stirring occasionally, until it is thoroughly cooked and the liquid has reduced to a rich broth. Add ginger and continue to simmer for an additional minute. Season to taste with salt and sugar.
- Divide the steak and sauce mixture among two to three bowls of rice. Add a poached egg (if using), sliced scallions, beni-shoga, and togarashi to each bowl as a garnish. Serve right away.