Ivan Orkin’s Gyudon

The New York-based chef shares his recipe for this classic and affordable dish, taken from his book ‘The Gaijin Cookbook.’


WordsClémence Leleu

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In his book The Gaijin Cookbook, Ivan Orkin, an American chef known for his ramen recipes, shares several of his favourite dishes that he often cooks at home.

One such recipe is for gyudon, a typical Japanese dish that consists of a bowl of hot rice topped with sliced beef and onion. ‘Like most gaijin, my introduction to gyudon came via fast food. I was a twenty-something-year-old kid in Tokyo trying to eat cheaply and everywhere I looked there was a Yoshinoya restaurant slinging bowls of rice topped with sweet-salty beef and onions’, the chef recalls in his book. Gyudon is generally accompanied by a raw or lightly cooked egg and miso soup. It’s part of the donburi family—dishes made up of a big bowl of rice topped with something like beef, but also breaded pork, eels, or tempura prawns.

The Gaijin Cookbook isn’t a manual for making perfect sushi or a memoir of a great summer in Kyoto. It’s a reflection of a lifetime spent as an outsider looking admiringly at Japan. It’s not a comprehensive guide to Japanese food, but rather a story of my specific experience of it’, the chef explains in the introduction to his book. 

Serves 4


1 large onion, sliced thick

62.5 ml + 1 tablespoon sake

62.5 ml + 1 tablespoon soy sauce

62.5 ml + 1 tablespoon mirin

60 g sugar

450 g thinly sliced beef (preferably chuck roll or a cut that withstands a relatively long cooking time)

One 1.5-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated

For serving:

Steamed rice  

4 raw egg yolks (good quality and fresh) or soy-marinated eggs

Kimchi (optional)

Shichimi togarashi


Bring 500 ml water to the boil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, sake, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar and cook for about 3 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer, until the onion is softened slightly.

Stir in the sliced beef and bring the liquid back to a simmer, then tilt the pan and use a flat skimmer to remove any grey scum. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes—the beef should be tender and the onion fully softened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the ginger. 

Serve over steamed rice, ladling a generous amount of broth into each bowl. Garnish each portion with an egg yolk or ajitama, kimchi (if you like), and shichimi togarashi to taste.


The Gaijin Cookbook (2019) by Ivan Orkin, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Ivan Orkin discovered Japan in the 1980s. He opened his first ramen restaurant in June 2006 in Tokyo’s Setagaya district, then opened a second establishment, Ivan Ramen Plus. The two restaurants closed in 2015. Ivan Orkin has also written another book, Ivan Ramen, and is one of the stars of the series Chef’s Table and Mind of a Chef on Netflix. He now runs two ramen restaurants in New York: Ivan Ramen and Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt