Domburi means “big bowl” referring to both the deep ceramic dish and to the heaping portion of rice topped with sauced meat, fish, and vegetables that’s served in it. As the history of domburi goes back several hundred years, it might be considered Japan’s first contribution to the fast-food industry. Centuries ago, the busy merchants of Edo (today’s Tokyo) were so preoccupied with making deals that they hadn’t time for a proper meal. They would stop at a roadside stand and slurp a bowl of noodles and broth, or devour an extra-large bowl of rice topped with cooked bits of fish, vegetables, and sauce. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Meiji Restoration industrialized much of Japan, and an increasingly busy yet frugal-minded middle class became devotees of domburi dishes. Workers, too, found this style of food filling, unfussy, and inexpensive, while home cooks took advantage of leftovers from the previous evening’s meal to make their rice toppings.
The domburi dish I’ve chosen here is made from thinly sliced beef and will appeal to even the heartiest of American appetites. Domburi dishes such as this, and the ground veal version following, are a perfect way to make use of leftover rice.
Melt the suet or heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Sear half the meat at a time, pushing those pieces that are partially cooked to the side of the skillet to make room for the uncooked beef. Cook the meat just until it begins to change color, then push it all aside to make room for the scallions. In the same pan, sauté the scallions for 20 seconds, push these aside, and then add the bean sprouts. Reduce the heat slightly; sprinkle the sugar over the beef and vegetables; pour in the rice wine and soy sauce. Cook, stirring the beef and vegetables each separately once or twice, for 1 minute.
Divide the warm rice among four deeply flanged dishes or soup bowls. Arrange some beef, scallions, and bean sprouts over each portion of the rice. If there’s a great deal of liquid left in the skillet, continue to boil to reduce the amount to about
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.