This Japanese Curry Bowl Is Weeknight Dinner Magic

Braised lamb shoulder with pickled papaya, cilantro, roasted vegetables, and rice is probably the most delicious way to eat a seriously balanced meal.

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Mar 21 2018, 7:00pm

A version of this article first appeared on MUNCHIES in April 2016.

Everyone loves Japanese food. And it's pretty safe to say that curry is widely adored as well. But far too infrequently do we revel in the center of this Venn diagram: that is to say, Japanese curry.

Though curry was allegedly brought to Japan by the British Navy, Japanese curry is very much its own thing. It involves tender cuts of meat, short grain rice, and pickled vegetables, happily married into a hot, savory bowl of unabashed comfort food. There's nothing pretentious about it (it's usually made with bricks of compressed instant powder from a box), and it packs a big, sophisticated punch of flavor.

This dish from Nick Erven (who was at now-closed LA restaurant Saint Martha when he gave it to us, and is now at Rappahannock in downtown LA), starts with a base of juicy, lightly caramelized, braised lamb shoulder, cooked in red wine, veal stock, and (of course) Japanese curry. It's accompanied by roasted carrot, fennel, and onion—perfect for a rainy spring night—and a slaw of pickled papaya and cilantro, which add freshness and crunch. Serve it over a bouncy short-grain rice, like Koshihikari. And look at that: You got your protein, starches, veggies, and pickles on the same plate without even trying.

RECIPE: Braised Lamb Shoulder with Sushi Rice, Japanese Curry, and Pickled Green Papaya

As far as balanced meals go, this one's a hell of a lot more exciting than a canteen full of Soylent. Just brace yourself for an incoming addiction to Japanese curry.