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What is Rogan Josh?

Spicy Adventures

Here at Seasoned Pioneers, we love a good Indian curry. You may have noticed we’ve been diving into the history, origins and backstories of a fair few on our blog. We’ve covered the Batli, the Madras, the Korma and plenty of others. Now, it’s time for one of the classics. The Rogan Josh. No Indian establishment can claim to be serious without the Rogan Josh on its menu. It’s a real favourite all around the world – a gargantuan of the Indian curry scene. But what is it and how did it come about?

Firstly, what’s an Indian curry if it doesn’t have a little confusion and conflicting theories about its origins? Looking at the name alone has thrown up multiple ideas. In Persian or Urdu, the work ‘Roughan’ translates as ‘clarified butter’ or ‘oil’. Meanwhile, ‘Josh’ means to stew or to braise. So, if you’re going with this definition, Rogan Josh probably means ‘stewed in ghee’ – not an uncommon sight to see in any Indian kitchen.

Alternatively, there’s an Urdu word ‘Roghan’ which means ‘brown’ or ‘red’ as well as the Kashmiri ‘Roghan’ which also means ‘red’. The word ‘gošt’ (often seen as ‘ghosht’), meanwhile, means ‘meat’. So, ‘Rogan Ghosht’ (the alternative to Rogan Josh) translates as ‘red meat’ which also makes sense. As the dish is still referred to as both Rogan Josh and Rogan Ghosht, it’s really difficult to know which is the original! The debate continues to this day.

What is a little more clear is the physical origin of the dish. Rogan Josh is a staple in Kashmiri cuisine and you’ll find it’s one of the main dishes in ‘the wazwan’ – a famous Kashmiri multicourse dinner that’s revered with great pride throughout the Kashmiri culture. The preparation of it is considered something of an art form (no pressure, if you were thinking of cooking one up tonight).

However, the Rogan Josh did not originate in Kashmir (despite some local claims and disputes that it did). It was originally brought to the Kashmiri valley by the infamous Mughals – the same folks who brought Pasanda and many other dishes with them. The Mughals’ cuisine had, in turn, been heavily influenced by the Persians with their middle-eastern palette and heavy use of spices. The Mughals, not a fan of the relentless summer heat on the Indian plains (who can blame them) decided to make Kashmir their winter capital, heading up to the mountains where the climate was cooler thanks to its height at latitude. With them, came the Rogan Josh.

what is Rogan Josh

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