Wagyu Roast Beef Don (ローストビーフ丼)
Roast beef has been around in Japan for over 150 years, but this modern take on the beef bowl has been rising in popularity over the past decade. With thinly sliced sheets of melt-in-your-mouth wagyu atop a mound of rice drizzled with a savory sweet onion sauce and spicy wasabi cream, it's a symphony of textures and tastes.
The best part is that it can be cooked in a regular pan on the stove in around twenty minutes.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- After browning all sides of the beef, water is added to the pan, and the meat is steamed. This prevents the pan from getting too hot while gently cooking the beef from all sides.
- The beef juices in the pan are used to make a savory-sweet onion sauce that goes beautifully with the Japanese-style roast beef.
- A second sauce made from Japanese mayo, wasabi, and lemon juice creates a tangy, spicy contrast to the rich meat.
- Slicing the beef thinly and serving it over a bowl of rice lets you stretch the expensive wagyu to serve 3-4 people.
Ingredients for Wagyu Roast Beef Donburi
- Beef - Any tender cut of beef that's about 3" x 3" x 6" (7cm x 7cm x 15 cm) will work, but I used a piece of A5 grade wagyu beef. Specifically, it was Kagoshima kuroge chuck flap. If your beef is larger or smaller than mine, the amount of time it takes to steam it will change. Because this is done on the stovetop, I would not recommend doing this with a cut of beef over 4 inches thick.
- Japanese mayonnaise - Japanese mayonnaise is tangier and umami-rich than Western mayonnaise, which is why I recommend it for this recipe. I used Kewpie brand.
- Lemon juice - Lemon juice adds a sharp tang to the wasabi cream, which balances out the dish's richness.
- Wasabi - I grated fresh wasabi for this, but if you can't find it, wasabi in a tube will also work.
- Onion - By sauteing the grated onions until they brown, it mellows them out and makes them sweet. This forms the base for the onion sauce.
- Sake - Sake adds flavor and umami to the onion sauce, and the alcohol will burn off as the sauce reduces. If you can't find sake, water and a pinch of MSG will work as a substitute.
- Soy sauce - This is the primary seasoning for the onion sauce. If you'd like to make this gluten-free, use tamari or coconut aminos.
- Sugar - Sugar adds a balancing sweetness to the onion sauce. You can adjust the amount to taste, but this has much less sugar than teriyaki sauce. Honey or maple syrup will also work.
- Rice - Japanese short-grain rice has a sticky and slightly chewy texture that works well in rice bowls which is why I highly recommend it for this dish. If you have a rice cooker, make 2 rice cooker cups of rice. Otherwise, you can follow my Japanese rice recipe to make it on the stovetop.
- Scallions - Chopped scallions not only add a splash of green to the bowl, but they also add a nice green onion flavor.
- Black pepper - Beef and black pepper are a match made in heaven, but other spices, such as sansho or shichimi togarashi, will work here.
- Eggs - In Japan, we have eggs that are raised and processed for being eaten raw and one of the most popular breakfast foods is TKG or eggs over rice. Raw or undercooked eggs pose a high risk of food born illness, so I don't recommend topping this with a raw yolk unless you are very confident your eggs are safe. If you're unsure, you can skip it or prepare onsen tamago and top it with that.
How to Make Wagyu Roast Beef Donburi
Start by sprinkling the salt onto every side of the beef and rubbing it in. Let this rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. This not only seasons the beef but also draws out excess moisture from the surface of the meat, which helps it brown.
To make the wasabi cream sauce, whisk the Japanese mayo, lemon juice, and wasabi together. You can use more or less wasabi, depending on how potent you want the sauce to be. Keep the sauce refrigerated while you prepare everything else.
Use paper towels to wipe away any liquid that has gathered on the surface of the beef and if you're using a leaner cut of beef, rub the surface with a generous amount of oil.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat until it's just hot enough to sizzle, and add the beef. If the pan is too hot, it will burn the meat before it cooks through, so keep it sizzling but don't let it smoke. Once the meat is browned on one side, roll it onto the next side and repeat until you've browned all four long sides.
You can check to see if it's ready by looking at one of the two remaining sides. The beef should be cooked about ¼ of the way through on all 4 sides that you browned. You can always go back to a side if it needs to be cooked more.
Next, you want to soak up any excess oil in the pan with a paper towel, but try to leave as much brown fond in the pan as possible. Add a ¼ cup of water and quickly cover the pan with a lid. Turn down the heat all the way and let the roast beef steam for 8-12 minutes. Flip the beef over about halfway through.
For rare roast beef, you want to get it to an internal temperature of 120°F (49°C). For medium rare, get it up to 130° F (54°C). Once the meat is up to your desired temperature, remove it from the pan and rest for at least 10 minutes. This lets the proteins relax, so the beef doesn't leak juices all over your cutting board.
For the onion sauce, turn up the heat on the pan you removed the beef from and add the grated onions. Saute these until they're golden brown; this will take about four minutes. If your beef didn't render out very much fat while steaming, you should add some oil to the pan.
Once the onions are browned, add the sake and deglaze the pan. Boil the mixture until it no longer smells like alcohol, and then add the sugar and soy sauce. Cook the onion sauce until it just starts to thicken.
When the roast beef is done resting, use a long sharp knife to slice it as thinly as possible.
Put the roast beef donburi together by mounding up some rice in the center of a large bowl and then drizzle on some of the onion sauce ( a little goes a long way).
Place a staggered layer of roast beef around the mound of rice, and then you want to make a small indentation in the center to hold the egg yolk.
Drizzle more onion sauce onto the beef, crack some black pepper on top, and sprinkle with some chopped scallions.
To finish off the roast beef bowl, drizzle some wasabi cream on a portion of the beef and then top the donburi with an egg yolk.
Other Rice Bowl Recipes
- Oyako Don (Chicken & Egg)
- Chicken Katsudon
- Tanin Don (Beef and Egg)
- Buta Don (Pork Bowl)
- Gyudon (Beef Bowl)
The British introduced roast beef to Japan, and the earliest records of the dish are from a state dinner in 1867, where it was served to dignitaries from England, the US, France, and Holland. Because beef is expensive in Japan, roast beef has historically been served for celebrations and holidays. These days, a popular way to enjoy this classic is to serve thinly sliced roast beef over a bowl of rice to make a donburi or rice bowl.
Roast Beef Don is a 6-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
ro the “ro” sound does not exist in the English language, and the best way to make it is to say the word "roll" with the tip of your tongue at the front of your mouth.
su like soup
to like toad
bi like bee
fu like fool
don like don't
For roast beef
- 460 grams beef chuck flap (3" x 3" x 6")
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup water
For wasabi cream sauce
- ¼ cup Japanese mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons wasabi (freshly grated or in a tube)
For onion sauce
- 70 grams onion (⅓ cup grated)
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar
- 1 batch cooked short-grain rice
- 2 scallions (chopped)
- black pepper (to taste)
- 3 large eggs (optional)
- Sprinkle all sides of the beef with the salt and let it come up to room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- To make the tangy wasabi cream sauce, mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and wasabi in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
- When the beef is ready, use paper towels to wipe off any liquid on the surface. If your beef is lean, you'll need to rub a generous coating of oil on the meat.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat until it's hot but not scorching. Place the beef in the pan and let it brown on one side, undisturbed.
- Roll the beef onto the next side and let it brown before repeating until all 4 long sides of the beef are browned. Check the side of the beef; it should be cooked about ¼ of the way through on every side.
- Use a paper towel to soak up any excess oil in the pan, and then add ¼ cup of water and quickly cover the pan with a lid. Turn down the heat to low and steam for 8-12 minutes or until the beef reaches 120°F (49°C).
- Flip the roast beef over once halfway through steaming.
- When the meat has hit 120°F (or 130°C if you want medium rare), remove it from the pan and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
- To make the onion sauce, add the grated onions to the pan you roasted the beef in. Turn up the heat to medium and saute them until they're golden brown (~4 minutes). If your beef is lean, you may need to add some oil to the pan.
- When the onions are golden brown, deglaze the pan with the sake.
- When the mixture no longer smells like alcohol, add the soy sauce and sugar. Boil the mixture until it starts to thicken.
- Once the roast beef is done resting, use a sharp knife to slice it as thinly as possible.
- To assemble the roast beef don, split the rice between 3 large bowls and mound it up. Drizzle some onion sauce onto the rice.
- Layer the roast beef around the rice and make an indentation in the center.
- Drizzle the onion sauce on the beef, then sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper and chopped scallions.
- Drizzle some of the wasabi cream sauce on one side of the rice bowl, and then top each donburi with an egg yolk.