Let's begin at the beginning. Japanese curry is a truly wondrous thing. It is served at both many holes-in-the-wall in Japan and also Wagamamas, and indeed forms a much-heralded staple of the national school lunch (kyushoku). My first encounter was many moons ago at lunch in a Japanese elementary school with curried quails' eggs (yes, Jamie, that really happens). My second encounter topped with deep fried oysters. Yet, on every tasting, the brown sauce remained the same. The same tang. The same sludgy brown-green-ochre, white-shirt-destroying colour. And giving the same desire to tuck in and eat portion after portion, piqued with slithers of flame-red ginger and always giving the same satisfying umami feel. The thing it reminds me of most is Hugo's hotpot from Pigeon Street - an '80s children's TV reference which took me about three days to dredge from the depths of my memory.
I am going to be 100% upfront about this. The curry we made was from a packet. Not even a gucci, kept in the fridge, all-fresh-hand-chopped-components packet but a store cupboard pop-out-of-plastic staple. This curry mix has all the health giving qualities and get-up-and-go of an OXO cube; however, with some good meat and a bit of love, it turns into something truly memorable (this may in fact be a more widely applicable lesson for life). And it isn't even cheating. No need to hide the packet shamefully behind your stash of spaghetti hoops and packets of strawberry jelly, because the packet version is the authentic real version. There are recipes out there on the web for rouxs made with ketchup and tomato sauce but these aren't authentic. The packet version is.
Our only hesitation was the meat to use. We wanted beef but the relatively fast cooking times specified on the packet wouldn't give any cheaper cuts time to stew. We therefore braised the meat first, before adding the curry flavour in the later stages of the cooking time. Not just any beef - our cut of choice was ox cheek. Combined with a little sweet potato, some pumpkin, and lashings and lashings of brown curry sauce.
And boy it was good. Eat-every-scrap-and-lick-the-pot-clean kind of good. Better than I had ever hoped. Purchase your packet with pride and do it!