Unadon vs Unaju : The Difference between the 2 Grilled Eel Rice
There are several rice bowl dishes that have been widely enjoyed by us Japanese for a long time, such as “Katsudon (カツ丼)“, “Oyakodon (親子丼)”, and “Tendon (天丼)”, but do you know what rice bowl dish has the longest history in Japan?
Actually, the rice bowl dish that was first created in Japan is “Unadon (うな丼)”, which has about 200 years of history.
As you might already know, the word included in the name, “Don (丼)” is the abbreviation for “Donburi (丼)” meaning “rice bowl”.
You might wonder “Then, what does the former word in each Donburi name stand for?”
Actually, “Katsu (カツ)” refers to pork cutlets, “Oyako (親子)” means “parent and child (in this case, chicken and egg)”, “Ten (天)” is the abbreviation for Tempura, and “Una (うな)” stands for “Unagi (鰻)” meaning “eel”.
The Difference between Unadon and Unaju
Let’s get back on track.
It is said that Unadon was created around 1804 to 1818. Today, Unadon is not only one of the most beloved Donburi dishes in Japan, but the rice bowl dish is also popular in overseas countries.
Those who have had the Japanese rice bowl dish before may have heard of “Unaju (うな重)”, a Japanese dish similar to Unadon.
If you compare Unadon and Unaju, from the appearance you might think they are the same thing.
However, the 2 grilled eel dishes are different in a certain point. Then, what is the difference between them?
Unadon (うな丼, 鰻丼)
Unadon is the bowl of rice topped with grilled eel. Bones are removed from eel and the boneless eel is grilled without seasoning. Then, after that, a sauce of dark soy sauce, Mirin sweet cooking rice wine, sugar and Sake rice wine is applied on the eel.
The grilled eel itself is called “Unagi no Kabayaki (鰻の蒲焼)” and is placed on top of the steamed plain rice on which a sweet sauce made with sugar and soy sauce is put.
As I wrote above, Unadon stands for “Unagi Donburi”, so it is definitely served in a rice bowl, or a “Donburi (丼)”.
Unaju (うな重, 鰻重)
On the other hand, the dish name, Unaju is composed of 2 words, “Una” meaning “eel” and “Ju (重)” generally standing for “Jubako (重箱)”.
Jubako is a traditional Japanese lacquered food box, so Unaju is an eel dish served in a Jubako.
Actually, the difference between Unadon and Unaju is only the container. In other words, the inside dishes are the same thing.
However, generally Unaju has a large amount of grilled eel and is pricey as compared to Unadon.
Besides, Unaju usually comes with a Suimono soup with eel guts in addition to small bowls of side dishes. Therefore, Unaju is higher in rank than Unadon.