Donburimono (a rice dish) (丼物)
Here, descriptions of a Japanese dish Donburimono are given.
Donburimono (or Donmono) is a dish in which cooked rice is placed in a bowl with other ingredients on top.
Its nature is slightly different from that of traditional Japanese dishes, and it's difficult to eat the dish elegantly. Consequently, the dish is often considered an inexpensive dish. It's a typical dish of what is called class B Gurume (dishes that are delicious, inexpensive and provided in abundant amounts).
Among the Japanese dishes, Donburimono is eaten in a style that is relatively new. It is said that the Unagi-donburi (Donburimono with roasted eel on cooked rice) introduced in the early nineteenth century is the oldest Donburimono, and that Fukagawa-donburi (with cooked shellfish as an ingredient) appeared next toward the end of the Edo period. It is said that the term "Donburi" originated in "Kendon" (being mean) or "Tsukkendon" (being curt), and that Donburimono was a fast-food dish for a busy person. In the early Meiji period, "Gyu-don" (Donburimono with cooked beef on cooked rice) and "Tanin-don" (Donburimono with cooked beef and egg on cooked rice; literally, stranger Donburimono) were introduced, and in 1891, "Oyako-don," in which chicken meat cooked with egg is placed on cooked rice appeared. Katsu-don (Donburimono with cooked and sauced pork cutlet on cooked rice) was introduced in 1913, during the Taisho period.
(It is said that "Tamago-toji-Katsudon" (Donburimono with pork cutlet cooked with egg on cooked rice) was introduced in 1921, which remains uncertain.)
(For further details, refer to "Katsu-don.")
In this way, the Donburimono style has been accepted in Japan, and new Donburimono have been introduced one after another by changing the ingredients.
On the other hand, in Asian nations it's the general way of eating that cooked rice and the side dish to accompany rice are mixed on a plate immediately before eating them, as when eating curry or Nasi campur. In the People's Republic of China, cooked rice and cooked side dishes are served in separate bowls and/or on plates, but it's the convention of the table that, before you eat the side dishes, you put it over the cooked rice in your rice bowl. Japanese don't dare to put chop suey on cooked rice by themselves but will ask someone to do so (refer to chuka-don (bowl of rice with a chop-suey-like mixture on it)). However, Chinese people would do so by themselves.
In Japan, for example, the combination of cooked rice and the Chinese dish of Sichuan-style bean curd (tofu) and ground pork of spicy taste (Mabo-tofu), and the combination of cooked rice and Chinese dish with fried egg and crab (Kanitama) is recognized as independent of Mabo-don (cooked rice and Mabo-tofu) and Tehshin-don (cooked rice and Kanitama), respectively. Such a custom might appear strange to the Chinese. However, although Donburimono originated from such Japanese table manners by chance, its introduction provided the opportunity to develop new cooking methods.
The way to eat Donburimono
It is said that it is preferable to eat cooked rice and the side dish placed on it alternately. Previously, in Japanese meals it was basic that cooked rice (the staple food) and side dishes were served separately, and a portion of rice and a portion of the side dish would be put in the mouth separately to be mixed and tasted. In Japan, even today, it's often considered rude to put a side dish on top of cooked rice and eat it. Donburimono deviates from the old convention, and it's considered a simple meal because cooked rice and side dish are placed together. It is also an attractive feature of Donburimono that the soup or sauce for the side dish is absorbed by the cooked rice, thus changing the taste of the cooked rice.
In order that the soup can be absorbed thoroughly by the cooked rice, the bowl of Donburimono is often served with the lid placed on it. Some people say that the Donburimono becomes tastier by steaming the contents of the bowl for a while with the lid. However, in some Donburimono, such as Donburimono with Tempura (deep-fried fish and vegetables) as its side dish, steaming isn't favored because eating the non-steamed side dish is a pleasant sensation against the teeth. Thus it can be said that there is no consistent rule for serving Donburimono. Some restaurants serve Donburimono without a lid.