The Difference: Unadon vs Unaju grilled eel rice

There are several “Donburi (丼)” rice bowl dishes that have long been loved in Japan, which include “Katsudon (カツ丼)”, “Oyakodon (親子丼)”, and “Tendon (天丼)”, but do you know what Donburi has the longest history?

Actually, the rice bowl dish that was first created in Japan is “Unadon (うな丼)”, or Unagi Donburi, whose origin is said to date back to the Bunka era (1804 to 1818) in the Edo period. 

Unadon vs Unaju

Today, the rice bowl dish with Unagi eel, Unadon is not just one of the most loved Donburi dishes in Japan, but I hear it has also become popular in many overseas countries.

Those who have eaten Unadon before may also have heard of “Unaju (うな重)”, a dish very similar to Unadon. In fact, if you compare Unadon and Unaju in appearance, you might think they are the same thing.

However, these 2 grilled eel dishes are different in a certain respect, but how does Unadon differ from Unaju? For people who are curious, this article will explain the difference.

Unadon (うな丼, 鰻丼)

Unadon Grilled Eel Rice Bowl

First off, Unadon is a bowl of rice topped with unagi that has been boned, grilled, and brushed with a sweet-savory sauce made from dark soy sauce, mirin (sweet cooking rice wine), sugar, and sake.

The grilled eel topping itself is called “Unagi no Kabayaki (鰻の蒲焼)“, and as a condiment for it, Sansho pepper usually comes with the Unadon rice bowl. 

As I mentioned above, Unadon stands for “Unagi Donburi”, so it is definitely served in a “Donburi (丼)” rice bowl.

Unaju (うな重, 鰻重)


On the other hand, the name of Unaju is actually composed of 2 words, “Una” for “Unagi” and “Ju (重)” which means layers.

Many people associate the latter word “Ju (重)” with “Jubako (重箱)”, a traditional Japanese lacquered food box, and in fact, Unaju is definitely served in a Jubako box.

The difference between Unadon and Unaju actually comes only from the difference in the container, so the dishes inside the containers are essentially the same thing.

However, in general, Unaju is higher in grade than Unadon and pricier. Unaju uses a larger amount of unagi than Unadon and usually comes with some side dishes and a cup of “Kimosui (肝吸: a clear soup with unagi guts)”.

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia 鰻丼, 蒲焼 )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

1 Response

  1. April 21, 2021

    […] Unadon vs Unaju: The Difference between the 2 Grilled Eel Rice Bluefin Tuna, Hotate, Maguro, Scallops, Unagi, Uni […]

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