Gyudon has long been the friend of cost-conscious and time-strapped salarymen throughout Japan. The beef bowl, in fact, pre-dates the modern salaryman by quite a while; it emerged in the late 1800s as a combination of rice bowl dishes and beef hotpot dishes.
Gyudon isn’t just about beef and rice, as looking at a gyudon restaurant menu will soon reveal. The toppings number at least half a dozen at Yoshinoya, a popular beef bowl restaurant. Most gyudon restaurant menus will have photos of the toppings, but the trick to knowing how to put together a delicious gyudon is more than knowing what toppings are available.
With this guide, you can read about the top five most popular gyudon toppings as well as suggestions for delicious combinations of toppings.
The top five gyudon toppings were determined by gathering information from Japanese sites such as Hdrank, Naver Matome and MyNavi News and are in no particular order.
Let’s see which toppings most people prefer to grace the top of their gyudon.
(onsen tamago, 温泉たまご)
The onsen tamago is my personal favorite, so I’ve shamelessly put it at the top of this list. An onsen tamago is a boiled egg with a hard yolk and soft white. Onsen tamago were traditionally cooked in hot springs, which will come to no surprise if you knew that the Japanese word “onsen” means “hot spring.”
The website Naver Matome suggests onsen tamago with cheese and mentaiko (spicy fish roe) mayonnaise for a delicious combination of beef bowl toppings.
Green spring onion
Some well-placed spring onion will add some color and crispness to your gyudon. According to MyNavi News, spring onion ranks as the second favorite gyudon topping for both men and women. Several gyudon places offer a “negitama gyudon” (Spring onion and egg beef bowl), so if you also like raw egg, getting this menu item would probably be more of a deal than getting the two toppings a la carte.
Red pickled ginger
(beni shouga, 紅しょうが)
At most if not all gyudon restaurants, you won’t find red picked ginger on the menu. This is because ginger is provided at no additional charge! If you take a peek in the container sitting on the counter or table at a gyudon restaurant, you’ll see a whole box full of beni shouga, free for the taking. Ginger does have some bite, so those weak of stomach will want to avoid it. Ginger fans, though, will save some cash by ordering a plain beef bowl and using the free ginger instead of other toppings.
(nama tamago, 生たまご)
According to MyNavi News, raw egg was the number one gyudon topping of choice for men; it doesn’t even show up on the women’s list. Nama tamago may take some getting used to if you’ve never had it before. I’ve found that if you mix the egg into the beef and rice while the dish is hot, the egg will become mostly “cooked,” leaving delicious eggy strands throughout the beef bowl.
Kimchi, mostly known as a Korean food, is popular in Japan as well. Japanese kimchi might not be as hot as most Korean kimchi, but it will add some spiciness to an otherwise mild if greasy dish such as gyudon. Combining kimchi with tororo, a sticky white grated yam topping, makes for beautiful contrast and an interesting texture atop your gyudon.
What would a fast food place be without cheese? Cheese appears in fifth place among women’s favorite gyudon toppings, according to MyNavi News. Cheese adds a certain richness to an already hearty dish. Some people enjoy cheese on just about everything, so why not also on gyudon?
Now that we’ve wrapped up the top six gyudon toppings, it’s time to hear about your favorite toppings. What gyudon toppings do you love? Which ones do you despise? Let us know in the comments!