Updated: Mar 8, 2022
My recipe this week is a Japanese classic - Gyudon - which translates rather simply as "beef bowl". I'll be the first to admit that doesn't sound like it's going to get your taste buds chirping, but Gyudon is about quite a bit more than a simple "bowl of beef." What goes into a Gyudon? First, you have a base of Japanese rice - about 200 -225g per person (cooked weight). Then you have your beef and onion topping which has been cooked in a liquor of dashi stock, soy sauce, Japanese cooking sake (or regular sake if you have some) and sugar. The sauce is reduced by more than half during cooking so that the beef and the onion suck up all the lovely flavours. To finish, I garnish my Gyudon with a little salad cress and red pickled ginger (Japanese shoga) ,the latter giving another taste dimension (a little palate refreshing tang) to the bowl.
The history of Gyudon is quite interesting and not a little ironic looking back from the 21st century. During the centuries when Japan was a closed society, the eating of meat was banned by Imperial edict. This prohibition ended in the late 19th century when the then emperor, Meiji, having seen his country forced to open its doors to the outside world (and probably having seen the physical size of foreigners,) decided he had to (literally) beef up his population. Thus the prohibition on meat consumption ended. One of the first businessmen to take advantage of this action was Eikichi Matsuda who founded a chain of restaurants "Yoshinoya" serving the dish that Matsuda-san himself named; Gyudon. The Yoshinoya chain is still around today (as well as its two main competitors - Sukiya and Matsuya - which were both founded in the same era as Yoshinoya) proving that the dish remains as popular with the Japanese as it has ever been.
Gyudon served at restaurants like Yoshinoya use beef that has been sliced wafer thin and some people imagine that this is a feature of the dish - in fact, wafer thin beef serves two purposes for a fast food chain - it reduces cost and speeds cooking time. In Japan, you can buy very thinly sliced beef for dishes like gyudon and sukiyaki but I prefer to buy a cut of rump steak and cut it myself - I don't worry too much about getting the beef cut wafer thin - it really needs to be frozen and cut with a machine to achieve that kind of wafer thinness. In fact, I like the fact that the beef retains some body and texture after cooking. From countertop to kitchen table you can have bowls of Gyudon ready in 25 - 30 mins. Gyudon is substantial enough to make a good one bowl dinner or a very satisfying lunch. I garnished my dish with cress and some pickled ginger ("shoga" in Japanese), neither are obligatory but I like the extra layer of flavour they provide. If you like the sound of this recipe, you can find the Youtube tutorial by clicking Gyudon or simply scroll to the bottom of the page. You can find the written recipe just below.
happy cooking! kurumi XXXX
(makes 2 servings)
1 medium onion
1 beef rump steak (250g)
1 tsp Japanese dashi stock granules
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp Japanese cooking sake
3 tbsp soy sauce
450g cooked rice
some red pickled ginger
cut the onion into 5mm slices
slice the beef steak as thinly as you can
put the water and dashi stock granules in a jar or small measuring jug, then add to a frying pan
add the sugar, sake, soy sauce & onion to the pan and cook for 4-5 mins over a medium heat
add the sliced beef and simmer for approx. 4 mins or until the sauce has largely been evaporated and absorbed into the beef and onions
to assemble, fill your bowls with the cooked rice, pile 1/2 of the beef and onion onto the rice in each bowl and pour over the sauce left in the pan
top with the cress and red ginger