One of my favorite Japanese dishes called gyudon is considered to be fast food in its home country, but it’s unlike any fast food that most people are familiar with. It consists of paper thin slices of well-marbled beef and tender onions simmered in a mildly sweet sauce made from dashi and soy sauce. It’s often topped with pickled ginger to cut some of the richness and sliced scallions. Optional toppings include Japanese seven spice powder and a soft cooked egg which add a wonderful flavor and texture.
Fast food establishments like Yoshinoya even have franchises in places like California where there is a larger Asian population that desire quick meal alternatives. It’s a filling and satisfying dish that can be made with just a few ingredients and, best of all, it can be made well in advance or even the day before and it will taste just as good if not better.
Beef belly is typically used for gyudon and this cut gives the dish the flavor and texture that is associated with this famous comfort food. The beef belly can be found in most Asian markets since it is a popular ingredient used for hot pots. If you can’t find beef belly, you can ask your butcher to slice ribeye as thinly as possible and then cut them into bite-sized pieces before cooking.
We love this recipe so much that we featured it at one of our pop-up dinners so that we can share a delicious meal as well as some knowledge about a food that is such an important part of everyday life in Japan.
- 225 g thinly sliced beef belly cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 onion sliced radially and separated
- 1 tsp ginger grated
- 2 tbsps soy sauce
- 2 tbsps sake
- 2 tbsps mirin
- 2 tsps sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp dashi powder
- 2 eggs
- beni shoga
- steamed rice
- shichimi to taste Japanese seven spice powder
Boil beef until no longer pink and drain.
Heat pan over medium heat and add mirin, soy sauce, sake, sugar, and beef until sauce is reduced, but not completely dry.
Remove beef and pour back the extra sauce. Add dashi powder, ginger, and onions.
Cover and cook until onions are soft.
Add beef and mix together.
Boil water in a separate pot. Gently place eggs into the pot. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Remove eggs from hot water and place in cold water.
Top a bowl of steamed rice with beef, egg, and beni shoga. Shichimi to taste.
For some extra heat, sprinkle on some Japanese spice mixture called shichimi. Gyudon is often topped with a raw egg, but a soft boiled egg gives it a richer creamier texture. The benishoga (red pickled ginger) gives a bright flavor that cuts through some of the richness of the beef and sweetness of the sauce. You can substitute 1 tablespoon of mirin with 1 tablespoon of sake and 1 teaspoon of sugar. The beef needs to be sliced paper thin so that it will be tender. Ask your butcher to do this or buy pre-sliced beef in an Asian grocery store. Most cuts of beef are fine to use as long as they're not too lean like the round. I recommend the rib-eye.