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I have a folder on my phone named “stuff on rice.” There are snapshots of saucy beans on yellow rice, fried eggs on mushy rice, roasted vegetables on brown rice, dal on basmati with toasted cumin and mustard seeds, sauteed mushrooms on risotto, chicken fricassee on white rice, fish steamed atop ginger rice, shellfish nestled into long grain rice … It’s a big folder. I eat a lot of stuff on rice! My favorite vessel for eating stuff on rice? A bowl.

In honor of “stuff on rice,” a category of everlasting comfort, let’s have donburi tonight.

“Donburi” literally means “bowl” in Japanese, but it’s a category of dishes, all of which are served on rice in a bowl. They often feature stewed meats or vegetables — who doesn’t love it when rice soaks up a savory broth?! Whenever I see donburi on a menu or in a cookbook, I know I’ve hit the jackpot.

This recipe, adapted from one by Malaysian Australian chef Adam Liaw, is a version of yakiniku donburi, or a rice bowl topped with grilled meat and vegetables.

Start by making a pot of steamed white or brown rice. Next, quick-pickle a handful of radishes, halved or cut into bite-size pieces, in a splash of vinegar and a bit of sugar and salt. Let them hang out in the vinegar mixture while you make the rest of the meal.

Crush a couple of sheets of nori — Liaw says to use a spice grinder, but I just crumple them with my fingers. Make a flavored butter with the crushed nori and, if you have it in your cabinet, a pinch of togarashi — a seven-spice blend of red chiles, dried orange peel, ginger, crushed nori, Sichuan peppercorns and white and black sesame seeds. (If you don’t have togarashi, you can skip it, or use furikake, which is less spicy.)

Now, get a cast-iron skillet nice and hot. Add a couple of teaspoons of oil. Salt a steak — or what about a couple of portobello caps? Maybe a few slices of firm tofu? — and then set it in the pan. Let it sear, undisturbed for a few minutes, before flipping to the other side. Cook it to your liking. ’Shroom caps will take a bit longer to cook; tofu might be done more quickly, and would benefit from a splash of tamari right at the end.

Pull the steak out of the pan and let it rest on a cutting board. Add some chopped asparagus and a pinch of salt to the hot pan. Let the green stalks spurt and skitter across the skillet just until they turn bright green with a few spotty blisters.

Portion the rice into bowls. Slice the steak against the grain, lay a few slices atop each mound of rice. Put a small pile of asparagus on each bowl, a dollop of nori butter and a gaggle of pickled radishes. There it is: Dinner!

This recipe may seem to have many components, but it’s written with efficiency in mind. Start by making the rice, then the radishes, then the nori butter and everything will be ready by the time the rice is done. Feel free to skip the radishes, or use another pickled thing. Instead of making nori butter, you could just sprinkle the nori on top; the meat will be juicy and plenty flavorful without the extra fat. Finally, instead of the steak, zucchini, chopped and seared, with a splash of soy sauce or tamari and a drizzle of chile oil, would be great, too.

Where to Find: Togarashi seasoning, furikake or bonito flakes can be found at spice shops, well-stocked supermarkets, Asian markets or online.

Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

NOTE: To quick-pickle radishes, rinse 8 of them, about 4 ounces, well and cut into quarters, trimming them as needed. Combine 1/4 cup of plain rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat, add the radishes and let sit for 15 minutes before serving or storing (in their cooled liquid).


  • Three 7-inch nori sheets
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch togarashi seasoning, furikake or bonito flakes (optional)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces sirloin steak
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 bunch (14 ounces) asparagus
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups cooked brown or white rice, warmed
  • Pickled radishes, for serving (see NOTE; optional)

Step 1

Tear up 2 sheets of the nori into small pieces. Working in batches as needed, pulse them in a spice grinder or food processor to a coarse powder.

Step 2

In a medium bowl, stir together the butter with the powdered nori and togarashi, until well incorporated.

Step 3

In a large skillet over high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of oil until shimmering.

Step 4

Pat the meat dry and season lightly with the salt. Add to the pan and cook until browned on both sides, turning the steak(s) over halfway through, until the center of the steak registers 140 to 145 degrees (medium-rare) on a thermometer, about 5 minutes total. Do not overcook. Transfer the steak to a cutting board to rest; keep the pan over high heat.

Step 5

While the steak is cooking, discard any woody or tough asparagus ends, then cut the stalks across in half and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with a little oil, season lightly with pepper and toss to combine.

Step 6

Add the dressed asparagus to the pan and cook, using tongs to turn them often, until a little charred but still a bit crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the cutting board with the steak.

Step 7

Divide the rice among individual bowls. Cut the remaining nori sheet into thin short strips and divide among the bowls. Cut the rested steak into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then divide it and the asparagus among the bowls. Brush the steak with some of the nori butter or, if the butter is soft enough, spoon it on top and let it melt. Serve with the pickled radish, if desired.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (with brown rice, using 2 teaspoons nori butter): Calories: 540; Total Fat: 13 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 70 mg; Sodium: 350 mg; Dietary Fiber: 7 g; Sugar: 3 g; Protein: 29 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “Adam’s Big Pot: Easy Meals for Your Family” by Adam Liaw (Hachette, 2014). Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick and Ann Maloney; email questions to

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