Soboro Beef bowls are a popular family meal in Japan. Soboro refers to highly seasoned and minced protein typically served with steamed rice and veggies. Endlessly customizable, I make mine with ground beef, scrambled eggs, and snap peas. You can choose ground chicken or turkey, or even your favorite ground meat substitute. You can use brown rice or cauliflower rice, if that’s your thing. Don’t love snap peas? Throw in any veggie you do like-edamame or English peas work beautifully here as well.
The key is to keep all of the toppings small and pebble sized so it’s easy to scoop into your mouth. You can also make the components ahead of time and reheat before serving, making this ideal for all you Sunday meal prepping warriors. Soboro Beef Bowls are a fun and visually appealing meal, so let’s get started!
What is Soboro?
Soboro refers to ground meats or eggs which are cooked into small crumbled bits. And sometimes in restaurants, it’s only the seasoned protein on top of a bowl of rice. But when made at home, it’s usually a colorful medley of ground meat, egg, and veggies on top of rice. Soboro Beef, also known as as Soboro Donburi, Soboro Bento, or even Sanshoku Donburi (sanshoku means three types) features prominently in lunches, particularly for school age kids. The flavors are comforting and mild, nothing spicy or scary! Japanese people have a tradition of eating room temperature foods, so this would be packed in the morning and then eaten without re-heating at lunch time.
Onto the Prep
Snap peas are a cross between snow peas and English peas. They have a delightful crunch and natural sweetness, and are a great veggie to serve to vegetable resistant folks. While string-less varieties do exist, most snap peas have a string that needs to be removed before eating. This is a task kids can easily do.
Then I give them a quick blanch to retain their color and crunch. Just add to boiling water for two minutes, then drain and cool under running water.
And now it’s time to prepare the star of Soboro Beef. Using readily available Asian pantry staples creates a deeply savory, umami rich beef. Soy sauce adds its signature salty tang, oyster sauce brings rich complexity, mirin adds a dash of sweetness, and ginger brings a pop of peppery zing.
The meat is highly seasoned and that’s because it is served over plain rice. Often with Japanese rice bowls, there is no “sauce” on the side, so the toppings are more aggressively flavored. When you take a bite, the flavors blend with the plain rice and tastes well balanced.
When the meat is done, put it to the side in a bowl and cook the eggs.
When the eggs are cooked, it’s time to assemble the bowls! Just fill with your perfectly cooked rice, and arrange the beef, eggs, and snap peas on top.
I like to garnish with a little beni shoja. That’s a red pickled ginger that may have a more bracing flavor than you’re used to, but is very refreshing and adds a lovely burst of color. Feel free to substitute sushi pickled ginger instead.
Soboro Beef Bowls are a perfect weeknight family meal: casual and fun, and filled with appealing flavors and textures. Any leftovers can be packed for lunch! Try them and let me know what you think by rating the recipe below, and leaving a comment. We love hearing from you! And show off your Soboro Beef Bowls by tagging us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen.
For Ground Beef:
- 1 Tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
For Scrambled Eggs:
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 5 ounces snap peas
- 4 cups of steamed short grain rice
- 1 tablespoon beni shoga (red ginger)
- Pull the strings along the side of the snap peas down and off. Discard and set aside.
- Bring a small pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the snap peas and boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain the snap peas and cool with running water. Set the snap peas on the chopping board and slice them finely crosswise. Set aside.
- Heat a medium pan over medium high heat and add the oil. Swirl the pan to coat with oil and then place the beef in the pan. Let it cook for 2 mins without touching it and then use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into small crumbles. Continue cooking for 2-3 mins.
- Add the ginger and continue to cook for 1 minute. If your pan has a lot of oil, take a couple pieces of paper towels and wad it up into a ball. Tilt the pan and tuck the paper towel towards the bottom of the pan to absorb excess oil.
- Then add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, mirin, and sugar. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook for 3-4 mins. until the beef is thoroughly cooked and the sauce has been absorbed and the pan looks mostly dry. Transfer to a bowl.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk it with a fork or chopsticks until it’s uniformly a light yellow color. Wash and dry the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl the pan. Add the eggs and using a pair of chopsticks scramble the eggs to form little pieces. Set aside as soon as the eggs no longer look wet.
- Divide the rice into 4 separate bowls. Top with the beef, egg, and snap peas. Garnish with a little beni shoga.
- Serve hot.
*This is a very common lunch box item for school children. Instead of using bowls, use several lunch containers. It’s usually served at room temperature, but you can re-heat it if you like.
*You can also make the individual components earlier in the week and then heat them up briefly in the microwave before continuing to portion (hard cold rice is a NO!)
Keywords: soboro, rice bowls, soboro beef, asian meal prep