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Unadon (うな丼): Eel Rice Bowl

Unadon (うな丼)
Unadon (うな丼) is a very popular type of donburi found throughout Japan.

It is a simple dish consisting of grilled eel served over a bowl of rice with a sweet and savory sauce.

“Una” is short for “unagi” (鰻), which means eel in Japanese. “Don” is short for “donburi” (丼), which means rice bowl.

Its full name is actually “unagi don”, but it is typically known as “unadon” for short. A variation of “unadon” is “unaju“, which is almost the same, except that the rice is served in a traditional square box called a “jubako“.

Read on for more interesting info about unadon:


kabayaki eel
Kabayaki style eel is the main ingredient of unadon

The main ingredients of Unadon are:

  • Rice
  • Eel

Eel and rice. That’s it!

Sometimes, sliced nori (i.e. dried seaweed), or green onions are added as garnish, but not often.

The most important part of unadon is that the eel is cooked using the kabayaki method. It involves deboning, skewering, and grilling the eel with a sweet/savoury sauce.

The sauce is very similar to teriyaki sauce, and is typically made with soy sauce, mirin, sake (rice wine), and sugar.


unadon set from sukiya
Unadon set from Sukiya

Unagi don is found throughout all of Japan. Many large chain restaurants like Sukiya also have una-don, so you are sure to find it anywhere you go in the country.

Most eel used in Japan is actually imported, as there is not enough domestic supply to keep up with demand. Domestically produced eel is also considered higher end, and more expensive.

There are some areas in Japan which are famous for their eel. For example, Ibaraki prefecture is famous for its eel production. It is believed by many that Ryugasaki City in Ibaraki is the birthplace of unagi don.

There is even a stretch of road in the town known as “Eel Highway” (うなぎ街道).

Read more about its history below:

History / Origin of Unadon

unagi history
Old school unagi master

Unagi don has been eaten in Japan since the late Edo period (approx. 1840s).

Kabayaki style eel was already popular at the time, but no one had thought to put it on top of rice.

One day, a drama playhouse owner/financier named Imasuke Okubo ordered kabayaki eel and a bowl of rice while waiting for his ferry at Ushiku Lake.

The ferry came early, so in a rush he grabbed his eel, put it on top of the bowl of rice, and covered it with a plate.

When he arrived at his destination 10 or so minutes later, and sat down to eat his meal, he discovered that the eel had become more tender from the steam, and the rice had soaked up the sauce of the eel. It was delicious!

There is a theory that either Imasuke began serving the dish at his playhouse, or that he told the restaurant about it when he returned his plate, and the restaurant began serving it.

In either case, unagi don began to spread throughout Japan, and is still immensely popular today!

It is particular popular (i.e. a tradition) to eat eel or unadon in the middle of summer, on a day known as Midsummer Day of the Ox (土用の丑の日).

Unadon Recipe

delicious unagi don

Check out these great recipes to make your own unadon:


Have you ever tried unadon before? What did you think of it?

Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Chef Goku

Chef Goku

Chef Goku is the founder and sole operator of The Chef Dojo. He loves Japanese food, and has lived in and out of Japan for many years. He started this blog in 2018 to share everything he learns about Japanese food and cooking. He is also a self-certified Japanese knife nerd. Contact Chef Goku

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