Why It Works
- The broth is flavored with a balanced mixture of soy sauce and sugar for a sweet and salty profile.
- Adding the onions before the chicken and using a high proportion of broth allows you to simmer it down for better flavor.
- Reserving extra egg yolks and adding them back to the bowl (or bowls) at the end gives the dish extra richness.
Super popular both at restaurants and at home, oyakodon (Japanese chicken and egg rice bowl) is sort of like the pizza of Japan—if pizza were the kind of soul-satisfying comfort food that's easy to make at home, with minimal ingredients, in about 20 minutes. This kind of quick and easy one-pot rice bowl is a huge time-saver in the kitchen.
In Japanese, oya means "parent," and ko means "child." Donburi, typically shortened to just don, means "bowl," though, like "paella" or "casserole," it's also the name of any dish served in a donburi. These dishes are frequently (but not always) composed of ingredients simmered together in broth, then poured over rice. In this case, the oya and the ko are chicken and egg.
To make it, I start with the classic Japanese sweet-and-savory combination of dashi, soy sauce, sake (make sure to use a dry one), and sugar. Some folks use mirin instead of sake; either will work. After combining these ingredients in a saucepan and bringing the mixture to a simmer, I add a thinly sliced onion. If you want to get all fancy or plan on making this a lot, you can spring for a donburi pan, a small, saucer-like skillet designed specifically for simmering ingredients destined for rice-topping. Otherwise, a skillet will do fine. (You'll just have to squish the ingredients around a bit to get them to fit perfectly on top of a bowl of rice.)
I like to use a little bit more broth than is typical—I start with about a cup for every three eggs—because I like to simmer it down to tenderize the onion and to concentrate the flavor of the stock. I find that cooking the onions for a full five minutes at a hard simmer before adding some thinly sliced chicken gives them plenty of time to tenderize.
I also like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which stay juicy as they simmer, though you can easily use chicken breast if you prefer. Just be sure to slice the chicken thin so that it cooks rapidly, and don't let it overcook! Five to seven minutes is plenty of time for thighs, and three to four minutes should do for breast.
Once the chicken is cooked through, I add some sliced scallions. If you can get your hands on mitsuba, this is the place to use it. It's a Japanese herb that looks and tastes a bit like parsley, but the flavor is much milder. The aroma reminds me a little of watercress, but without any of the pepperiness. It won't make or break the dish, but it's nice to have if you can find it.
Next, I add eggs. The key here is to not overbeat them. You want to see distinct sections of egg white and yolk. Chopsticks are my favorite tool for beating eggs like this, and the chopsticks can then be used to drizzle the eggs into the simmering broth (see the video below). Traditionally, you'd cover and simmer the eggs until they're about half set, though nobody is stopping you from cooking them however you like them. Once the eggs are cooked, I pour the contents of the pan over rice. There will be quite a bit of extra juice. This is fine. It should soak into the rice and flavor the entire bowl.
Personally, I like to mix things up a bit by adding an extra egg white to the beaten eggs, reserving the yolk, cooking the oyako to medium, then adding the extra raw egg yolk back to the top of the bowl for mixing in.
But that's just me.
1 cup (240ml) homemade dashi, or the equivalent in Hondashi (see note)
2 tablespoons (30ml) dry sake
1 tablespoon (15ml) soy sauce, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon (15g) sugar, plus more to taste
1 large onion, slivered (about 6 ounces; 170g)
12 ounces (340g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced (see note)
3 thinly sliced scallions, divided
2 stems mitsuba (optional; see note)
3 to 4 large eggs (see note)
2 cups cooked white rice
Togarashi (see note)
Combine dashi, sake, soy sauce, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Adjust heat to maintain a strong simmer. Stir in onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is half tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken pieces and cook, stirring and turning chicken occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and broth has reduced by about half, 5 to 7 minutes for chicken thighs or 3 to 4 minutes for chicken breast. Stir in half of scallions and all of mitsuba (if using), then season broth to taste with more soy sauce or sugar as desired. The sauce should have a balanced sweet-and-salty flavor.
Reduce heat to a bare simmer. Beat eggs lightly with chopsticks in a medium bowl. Pour eggs into pot in a thin, steady stream, holding your chopsticks over edge of bowl to help distribute eggs evenly (see video above). Cover and cook until eggs are cooked to desired doneness, about 1 minute for runny eggs or 3 minutes for medium-firm.
To Serve: Transfer hot rice to a single large bowl or 2 individual serving bowls. Top with egg and chicken mixture, pouring out any excess broth from saucepan over rice. Add an extra egg yolk to center of each bowl, if desired (see note). Garnish with remaining half of sliced scallions and togarashi. Serve immediately.
Homemade dashi is nice, but not necessary for this simple dish, which has so many other strong flavors. Chicken breast can be used in place of chicken thigh if you prefer. Mitsuba is a Japanese herb similar to parsley. It can be found in Japanese grocery stores; omit it if unavailable. Togarashi is Japanese chile powder, which comes in both ichimi (chiles only) and shichimi (chiles blended with other dried aromatics) versions. Either will work on this dish.
For a richer finished dish, use 4 eggs, reserving 2 of the yolks. Beat the extra egg whites together with the remaining eggs in step 2, then add the reserved egg yolks to the finished bowls just before serving.