Gyudon (pronounced g'you-dawn) is the quintessential fast food in Japan, like hamburgers in the US. There are several chain restaurants that sell it and it's the lifeblood of many college students and salarymen. "Gyu" is Japanese for beef and "don" is short for donburi, the Japanese word for something that is cooked and served on top of a bowl of rice. (i.e. a pork bowl is "butadon" and a chicken/egg bowl is "oyakodon" or parent and child donburi) I was fortunate enough to live in Japan for a few years and since I love cooking several of my friends were kind enough to teach me some of their dishes.
A note about Asian dishes for westerners. Even dishes such as this one do not use the same amount of meat per serving that we are used to. It's less the main point of the dish and more of a special highlight. In Japanese cuisine in particular most dishes are made to be "umami" (pleasantly savory) even if they don't use meat so they are filling and satisfying regardless.This instructable will be laid out in metric and imperial so whoever wants to make it can recreate it without converting the recipe. Let's get cooking!
Step 1: What You Will Need
Hot cooked rice---------------------3-4 cups---------600-800 grams
Thin sliced beef---------------------1/2 lb-------------226 grams
1 bunch of green onions or 1 medium round onion
Vegetable Oil-------------------------3 tbsps----------44 mL
Water-----------------------------------1 cup-----------300 mL
Dark soy sauce--------------------- 1/3 cup---------80mL
Mirin (can substitute sugar)----- 1/3 cup---------80mL
Fresh ginger juice------------------2 tbsps---------30mL
A frying pan
A rice cooker or a pot with a lid
A rice scoop or a fork to fluff the rice
A knife or negi cutter
Step 2: Prep the Rice
For Japanese dishes you're going to want to use Japanese short grain rice. It sticks together properly and has a slightly sweet flavor that compliments the dishes well. (Long grain isn't gonna cut it here.) Everyone has their favorite brands. We usually use Nishiki but the easiest one to find in US supermarkets is probably Calrose. (Be careful though, we used to get Calrose until we got two bags in a row infested with bugs, yuck!)
Measure out your cups of rice and put them in the bowl. Wash the rice and then put the designated amount of water for the amount of rice you chose to use. Most rice cookers will have it marked on the side like the one in the picture, but if it doesn't just follow the directions on the bag. You don't want too much water because it will turn into gruel, and too little water will burn the bottom into a solid block and the rice will be crunchy. So be sure to follow the directions on the amount of water and cooking time.
Step 3: Sauce
The sauce is made of mirin (or sugar) and regular soy sauce. Don't use light soy sauce because it will throw off the flavor. I've seen recipes that also use sake, which is why it's in the pictures, but I don't make it that way.
Pour the water into a bowl. Add the soy sauce and the mirin (or sugar). You can choose to add the ginger to the sauce if you want to or you can wait until the end. It doesn't really change the flavor much either way.
Step 4: Onions
Depending on how you like your gyudon you can use negi (long green onions) or regular onions. There's another instructable using regular onions you can look at here. For my recipe I'm using green onions. You're going to want to give the rice a 10 minute head start before you start frying the onions or your meat is going to be done WAY too fast. It only takes a few minutes once you start cooking.
Make sure you wash them first before you start cutting. Lay them out on the cutting board and cut them diagonally into 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) lengths with your knife. If you choose to cut them smaller, that's where the negi cutter can make short work and save you time but I usually leave them longer.
Put the vegetable oil in the frying pan and heat it on high. If you're using green onion turn it down to med-high heat and stir fry them for a minute. Regular onion slices may take a couple of minutes and can cook on high. The oil will pop, be careful not to burn yourself.
Step 5: Meat
So for the meat it can be difficult to find the right kind. I was lucky and our grocery store had some thinly sliced beef for Philly Cheesesteaks, which is perfect. If you can't find that you'll have to ask a butcher to slice some for you. They need to be paper thin (or they won't cook properly) and cut into roughly 2 inch (5 cm) lengths.
Add the beef slices to the onions and continue to cook for another minute or two until the meat is no longer red. Make sure you stir it with your spatula as it cooks to get it even.
Add the sauce to the beef and onion mixture and continue cooking for another minute.
If you didn't put the ginger in the sauce then you'll add it now. Take the frying pan off the heat and add in the ginger juice.
Step 6: Fluff the Rice
Either your timer went off or your rice cooker started playing music, so it's done! You're going to need to fluff the rice because it's packed in the bowl/pot tightly. But this takes some finess to do it well, you don't want to crush the rice grains and turn them into mush.
Insert the rice paddle or fork into the side of the rice and scoop under. As you pull it back up turn and flip. Continue this motion around the bowl/pot one or two times until all the rice has been fluffed like in the last picture.
Step 7: Assemble
Scoop 2-3 scoops of rice into a deep bowl and add some of the beef and onion mixture on top. Then add 2-3 spoonfuls of the broth to moisten the meat and serve immediately.
Step 8: Itadakimasu!
Although this is the most traditional way to make it, there are many toppings they can add at chain gyudon restaurants including shredded daikon, shredded cheese, green onions and raw egg, kimchi and more. Make yourself some green tea and dig in!