Rogan josh is a spicy curried lamb dish of Persian origin. It is one of the most popular dishes in Kashmir, India and is fast gaining popularity across the world. The dish is also featured in the “Wazwan” a 36-course meal, the preparation of which is considered an art in Kashmiri cuisine. It is possibly the centerpiece of Kashmiri cuisine. For the native Kashmiris, there is no sincere love than the one for rogan josh.

What Is Rogan Josh

It’s a red meat curry with gravy made of caramelized onions, ginger, garlic, yogurt, clarified butter, herbs and the all-important spices including the Kashmiri red chilies. When cooked with care, red meat can turn into a tender buttery treat that blends with a myriad of spices and can have you reaching for more. It has thick red gravy with an intense flavour and makes a perfect side for “naan” Indian bread, or rice.

The Culinary Journey of Rogan Josh

Indian rogan josh, contrary to its name, is actually from Persia and was brought to Kashmir by the Mughals. The Kashmiri red chilies gave the curry its rich red colour without adding too much heat. It is these Kashmiri chilies that resulted in the dish becoming an important element of Indian cuisine.

The word “Rogan” means clarified butter or “ghee” and the word “josh” is derived from the word “ghosht” which means slow-cooked. Traditionally, rogan josh was made with goat, which takes a long time in a slow pot to become the delectable morsels of haven. You can also use lamb, mutton, hogget, or goat joint depending on the ease of access.

Flavour Profile

The rich taste and texture of the gravy in the Indian rogan josh is achieved by using a blend of whole spices and powdered spices. Each spice plays a unique role in enhancing the flavour of the lamb. 

  • Mace – It delivers a pungent sensation that is reminiscent of basil and mint. It also has citrus and woody notes.
  • Cardamom Pods–Spicy, floral, citrus, and herbal in its flavour, it adds a rich aroma and taste to the curry.
  • Cinnamon Stick – A complex blend of woody, sweet, hot, and spicy flavours make it the perfect addition to rogan josh.
  • Cloves – A pungent, bitter-sweet, astringent flavour of high intensity makes it an obligatory spice in Indian curries.
  • Nutmeg–Nutmeg lends a hand in making the rogan josh aromatic with its nutty, mildly sweet and warm flavours.
  • Black Pepper – Woody, piney, and sharp flavours come together with undeniable earthiness in black pepper and complement any kind of cooking.
  • Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder – Ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 in Scoville heat units (SHU), the whole Kashmiri red chillies puts the brightest of hot peppers to shame. The feisty red hue belies their mild flavour and is a staple in Indian cooking. These chillies are dried and powdered to get the Kashmiri red chili powder that gives rogan josh curry its famed colour.
  • Coriander Powder – Made from the seeds of the cilantro plant, coriander powder has a musky scent, punctuated with notes of citrus. It is used for its earthy fragrance with a slight tough of thyme and butter.
  • Turmeric Powder – With its vibrant yellow and medicinal properties, turmeric has carved its name in stone in Indian cooking. Used primarily as a colouring agent, it also helps tenderise meats during marination.
  • Ginger-Garlic Paste – Ginger and garlic pods are ground together to make a paste and stored to be used later. This paste is versatile and can be used in any cuisine.

Cooking Process

While spices do matter, food aficionados also believe that the cooking process should not be overlooked. Conventionally, rogan josh was made using goat meat. It took hours to cook, as goat meat becomes edible only after being slow-cooked for a long time. Goats were the domestic animals in the Kashmir region so it made sense to use goat meat in the recipe. Contemporary cooks use other varieties of meat to speed up the cooking process.

The order in which you cook the recipe is also important as the cooking time for each ingredient is different. With rogan josh, whole spices are first added to the clarified butter, then go in the onions until caramelised. Then the ginger-garlic paste, powdered spices. Tomatoes go in last as they take less time to cook. Finally, the meat, marinated in yogurt and other spices, is added and then slow-cooked. You can cook it in a slow cooker, or leave it on low in the over for a few hours.

This aromatic, flavoursome, luscious curry inspired by the snow-capped mountains of Kashmir will transport you to paradise. With juicy, succulent pieces of lamb and a rich spicy gravy, it is perfect for when you have guests over for dinner or a cosy family meal in the kitchen.

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