Among all Japanese donburi dishes, chukadon seems to be the least well known. One explanation could be that this stir fried vegetables and meat rice bowl dish looks more Chinese than Japanese. And yet, the name—chukadon—is decidedly Japanese. What gives?
Chukadon is an inexpensive fast food dish sold in Chinese restaurants in Japan. If you know how such wanderers the Chinese are, even before written history, you’d know how they traveled and settled all around Asia, bringing with them the food of their regions. Many of the dishes they introduced to their new home were given local names to make them more acceptable.
What the Chinese name for the dish is, no one knows. There probably isn’t a singular Chinese name for it just as there is no singular recipe for cooking it. The only standard for calling a dish chukadon is that it is a rice bowl dish that consists of rice at the bottom and saucy stir fried vegetables on top. Meat, mushrooms, quail eggs and mushrooms may accompany the vegetables.
Sounds like chop suey, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. And if it’s any surprise, chop suey, like chukadon, is not even traditional Chinese. Although there are countless stir fried vegetable dishes in Chinese cuisine, the term “chop suey” was born in America. Even I didn’t know that until recently. And to think that the oldest Chinatown in the world world is in my country.
According to one story:
It is said that some Chinese cook working during the Gold Rush served it as a personal “fuck you” to some drunk American miners.
Just like the Chinese-American chop suey, chukadon is made with bits and pieces of vegetables, and whatever small amounts of of meat or seafood can be had. It is an ideal dish to make with leftovers. Dice vegetables and meat (or seafood), stir fry, season, add sauce, scoop over rice in a bowl and you have chukadon.
But, surely, there are a few tricks to make truly good chukadon? Just one, aside from a fantastic stir fried dish. I’d say be generous with the amount of sauce. Thickened with starch, if possible. When you scoop the stir fried vegetables and meat over the rice, you want most of the sauce to drip down the bowl into the crevices between the rice grains.
This is my go-to sauce for making stir fries.
- In a small pan, stir together the bone broth, sweet rice wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce. Heat until simmering.
- Pour in the starch solution. Stir until the sauce is clear (no longer cloudy) and thickened. Boil gently for seven to nine minutes with occasional stirring until the sauce leaves no starchy sensation in the mouth.
- Off the heat drizzle in the sesame seed oil and stir.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. If your bone broth was under-seasoned or unseasoned, you may need to add salt and pepper.
- Add the sauce to stir fried meat and vegetables toward the end of cooking.
Are there stir fried recipes that can be just ladled over rice to make chukadon? Try any one of these:
Chicken Chop SueyThis chicken chop suey took less than 15 minutes to cook and that includes the time I spent cutting the vegetables.
Sweet Salty Beef and Vegetables Stir Fry With Kecap ManisThis sweet salty beef and vegetables stir fry uses sukiyaki-cut beef that are so thinly sliced that the dish cooks in 15 minutes flat, including preparation time.
Sweet Spicy Shrimp Broccoli Stir FrySubtly seasoned with sambal, galangal and Pad Thai sauce, this sweet spicy shrimp broccoli stir fry cooks in three minutes.
Beef and Asparagus Stir FryFor best results, ask your butcher to machine-slice semi-frozen beef into slices less than a quarter of an inch thick, “yakiniku” style.
Stir fried mushrooms and broccoliA stir fry with tender-crisp broccoli florets, button mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms smothered with a sauce thickened with starch.
Shrimps Peas Cashew Stir FryFresh juicy shrimps, sweet peas and whole roasted cashew nuts are stir fried for no more than five minutes to make this vibrant dish.
Chicken Snow Peas Stir FryThe key to a delicious chicken snow peas stir fry is to make sure that neither the meat nor the vegetables are overcooked.
Tofu and black beans stir fryTofu and black beans stir fry is an item found in most Chinese restaurants. Black beans, of course, refers to fermented black beans which gives this meatless dish its rich and deep flavors.