Unadon vs. Unaju: Grilled Unagi Eel over Rice

Several Donburi (丼)/rice bowl dishes have been favorites in Japan, including Katsudon (カツ丼), Oyakodon (親子丼), and Tendon (天丼), but do you know what Donburi is the oldest?

Actually, the rice bowl dish that first appeared in history is Unadon (うな丼), or Unagi Donburi, whose origin dates back to the Bunka era (1804 to 1818) in the Edo period. 

Unadon vs. Unaju

Today, the grilled Unagi eel over rice, Unadon, is not just one of Japan’s most loved Donburi, but I hear the dish has become popular in many countries.

Those who have eaten it before may also have heard of Unaju (うな重), a dish that looks like Unadon.

But how do the two grilled eel rice differ? For people wondering, this article will explain the difference.

Unadon (うな丼/鰻丼)

Unadon Unagi Donburi

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

The topping itself is called Unagi no Kabayaki (鰻の蒲焼), and the dish usually accompanies Sansho pepper as a condiment.

As I mentioned above, Unadon is the abbreviation of Unagi Donburi, so the dish is definitely served in a Donburi (丼) bowl.

Unaju (うな重/鰻重)

Unaju Grilled Unagi Eel over Rice

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

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

The difference between Unadon and Unaju actually only comes from the difference in the container. In other words, the dishes inside are essentially the same things.

However, Unaju is generally higher in grade than Unadon and is pricier.

Specifically, Unaju uses more Unagi eel than Unadon and usually accompanies 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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