Soboro-don is probably one of the easiest Japanese meals you can make. It’s super sweet and savory, and makes a great meal for lunch or dinner. Soboro donburi, or soboro-don for short, literally means “finely crumbled rice bowl.” Its toppings consist of crumbly things like ground beef or pork and scrambled eggs. Usually, there are also some vegetables; peas are especially popular.
This is super fast to make and looks pretty. Eat this hot or make it ahead as a bento. It’s also highly customizable in terms of portion sizes. Just add more rice or more of a particular topping!
Some fun history about rice bowls (one dish meals with rice and some kind of topping): According to Shizuo Tsuji, author of Japanese Cooking: a Simple Art, rice bowls first became popular in Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912). People were busier and having a one-dish meal was a lot easier than the multiple small dishes found in more traditional cooking.
A Note on Ingredients: A lot of Japanese cooking calls for saké, but don’t worry about using anything fancy. You can buy a cheap one specifically for cooking. It should be in your local Asian market next to the mirin and soy sauce.
For the Eggs:
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon saké
1 Tablespoon light soy sauce (usukuchi) (or substitute 1/2 Tablespoon normal)
1 Tablespoon sugar
For the Meat:
1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger
120 grams (4 ounces) ground beef and pork mix
3 Tablespoons saké
1 Tablespoon normal or dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup carrots (about half a large carrot), julienned and cut 2 cm or 1 inch length
1/4 cup (58 ml) water
1/4 cup (about 50 grams) raw peas or snap peas cut into bite size pieces
For meat: Combine all meat ingredients and cook on medium high heat until cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir it as it cooks to make the texture more crumbly.
For Eggs: Beat together all of the egg ingredients. Stir and scramble them on medium high heat until they have a slightly dry and crumbly texture.
For carrots: In a frying pan combine carrots and water and cover with a lid. Allow to boil and steam until the carrots turn a more vibrant orange (about 30 second to 1 minute). Remove from heat immediately, drain, and run under cool water. Alternatively, microwave carrots and water for about 30 seconds in a covered bowl or plate. The goal is a very slightly cooked carrot that is not completely soft.
Assembly: Arrange the ingredients in groups over the rice.
Finished! (or in Japanese dekita!)
This recipe comes from Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: a Simple Art. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks and still considered the best Japanese cookbook written in English after 30 years! It also has tons about Japan’s culinary history as well as cultural tidbits.