Unadon vs Unaju : The difference between the 2 grilled eel rice dishes

Do you know what Japanese rice bowl dish has the longest history? 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 the rice bowl dish created for the first time in Japan is “Unadon (うな丼)”, which has about 200 years of history.

As you might already know, the Japanese word included in the names of those Japanese rice bowl dishes, “Don (丼)” is the abbreviation of “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 that 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 first created around 1804 to 1818. Today, it is not only one of the most beloved Donburi dishes in Japan, but Unadon also seems to be popular in some overseas countries. Those who have had the Japanese rice bowl dish before may have heard of “Unaju (うな重)”, a Japanese dish similar in appearance to Unadon. From the appearance, you might think Unadon and Unaju are the same thing, but they are different in a certain point. Then, what is the difference between Unadon and Unaju?

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. 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 is called “Unagi no Kabayaki (鰻の蒲焼)” and placed on top of plain white rice on which a sweet sauce made mainly 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 a Japanese 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. In addition, Unaju usually comes with a Suimono soup with eel guts and side dishes in small bowls, and is higher in rank than Unadon.

(Reference pages of this article : Wikipedia 鰻丼, 蒲焼 )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. I want to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures and trivia.

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