When I first moved to New York City, I pretty much lived on rice bowls. It's not just that they were easy to prepare, though that definitely didn't hurt. These simple bowls of porridge, protein over rice, and perfectly balanced curry were just the thing when I was feeling homesick or couldn't find the energy to produce a feast in seven courses.
Now that I'm more settled into my life here, I still lean heavily on these dishes. They're so delicious, and they allow me to pull off fantastically flavorful and comforting meals, even when I'm feeling too lazy to leave my apartment. We have some very strong feelings about how to build a perfect rice bowl. And with these 12 rice bowls in rotation, you're never too far from a home-cooked meal—even on your laziest day.
Japanese curry (or kare, as it's called in Japan) is one of the country's most popular comfort foods, and for good reason. While most versions of this classic dish start from a package, we build the dish from scratch. You'll get all the traditional flavors, plus juicy pieces of chicken, tender bits of carrot, sweet peas, and silky chunks of potato.
This chicken and egg rice bowl is one of my favorite dishes. Pieces of chicken are simmered in a soy sauce and sake mixture, and then scrambled eggs are poured directly into the simmering liquid. When the chicken is tender and the eggs are cooked and fluffy, the combination is slid onto a bowl of rice. It really doesn't get much easier than this.
If you like oyakodon, chances are you'll love gyudon. Translucent onions are simmered with thin slices of beef in a mixture of soy sauce, dashi, and sake. The beef is finished with freshly grated ginger, and the rice bowl is topped with a poached egg.
This Bengali rice porridge is about as comforting as any food can be. Aromatic jasmine rice and hearty, earthy lentils are simmered in chicken stock with fresh turmeric, ginger, and red chili. When the fragrant grains have become tender, potatoes and chicken thighs are added to the pot. The porridge—already bursting with flavor and color—gets finished off with a bright cilantro chutney and bits of crisp fried shallots.
I hate the idea of cooking hacks. Often, those get-it-done-faster tips cut corners and ignore important steps. But keeping some homemade teriyaki sauce on hand at all times really is a cooking hack. It allows you to whip up all sorts of flavorful meals in no time. Take, for instance, this teriyaki-glazed salmon. In the time it'll take you to steam a pot of rice, you'll be able to sear the salmon, cut up some avocado and cucumber, slice a couple scallions, and grab that magical teriyaki from the fridge.
This extremely simple rice bowl consists of short-grain rice topped with pearls of brilliant orange salmon roe. The already-cured roe gets quickly marinated in soy sauce and other seasonings to bump up its intensity even more before it's loaded onto the rice and finished with a garnish of wasabi, nori strips, and a shiso leaf.
To those not familiar, simmering crisp-shelled fried chicken in flavorful broth might seem like a confusing cooking method. You'll just have to reserve judgment until you try it for yourself. To make this katsudon, leftover chicken katsu or pork tonkatsu is simmered with eggs in a soy-dashi broth and served over rice. While the crust doesn't remain particularly crisp, the breading soaks up tons of flavor from the cooking liquid.
Tamago gohan (literally "egg rice") is the simplest of Japanese comfort food. Start with a bowl of hot rice, and break an egg into it. As the egg slowly cooks into the rice, the bowl is seasoned with a bit of soy sauce, a pinch of salt, and a light shake of Aji-no-moto, a Japanese brand of pure powdered MSG.
This Japanese donburi features fluffy rice, thin slices of juicy rib-eye steak, garlicky sautéed spinach, and a salty-sweet sauce. The whole dish comes together in one pan (plus whatever vessel you use to cook the rice) in 30 minutes.
If you've given the beefsteak donburi a try and want to test out another iteration of the dish, or if steak just isn't for you, this chicken donburi is an equally delicious option. We weigh the chicken down while it cooks, which ensures the skin gets nice and crisp, and top off the bowl with plenty of bright, fresh ingredients like nori, sliced scallions, pickled ginger, and an egg yolk.
This vegetarian rice bowl is loaded with savory braised eggplant, stir-fried vegetables, and crunchy quick-pickled cucumber. The same liquid that's used to rehydrate shiitake mushrooms for the stir-fry is repurposed as a base for the eggplant braising sauce. Little tricks like this squeeze the most out of every ingredient, so you won't miss flavor-enhancers like chicken stock or dashi at all.
You'll have a hard time finding a dish more comforting and warming than dak juk, a Korean rice and chicken porridge. You'll start by poaching a whole chicken, until it's tender and flavorful. The poaching liquid is then used to cook rice, carrot, onion, and zucchini until the soft grains break apart and the broth has thickened. To finish, the tender chicken is added back into the glossy porridge, and each bowl is garnished with sesame seeds and scallion greens.
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