Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Rogan Josh: One Kashmiri tradition, two versions

Written by Muhammad Zulqarnain Zulfi | New Delhi | Updated: July 14, 2014 5:22 pm


Rogan Josh is one of the signature dishes from the Himalayan state of Kashmir. Brimming with flavors of fennel, ginger and marked by the striking red hue, it is indeed a celebration of all senses.

It is believed that the roots of Rogan Josh originated in Persia. The flavors and style have been brought in to India during the innumerable invasions it went through in the past. Traditional Kashmiri Rogan Josh has a thin sauce layered with a slick of oil on the top. The dish gets its color from a rare spice called Ratanjot and Kashmiri red chili powder. Rajanjot is not easily available, and since there is a good chance that the one you find might be fake with artificial color, it is better not to buy it unless you know it is a trusted source.

Rogan Josh has been adapted to be made in various ways around the country, but the traditional recipe is made in two ways. One rendition is without the use of onion or garlic. This is the way it used to be cooked by the Kashmiri Pandits.

The other version of Rogan Josh uses onion and garlic along with the same spices. The signature spices for this dish are hing/asafoetida, fennel seeds and the dried ginger powder, along with a variation of combination of cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. Yogurt is added to add a slight tang and texture to the sauce. There are no tomatoes added to the traditional dish; not even to enhance color.

The meat used for this recipe should not be lean. The fat in the meat enriches the dish and also allows you to cook with less amount of oil.

If you get across a version which has onion, garlic, ginger, tomato and everything else like any usual Indian curry, it is not Rogan Josh. It is not the tomatoes that make this curry, red. It is Ratanjot. And if you do not get Ratanjot, use Kashmiri Red Chili Powder or even paprika. But no tomatoes, my friends, no tomatoes.

It is not Rogan Josh without the intense flavors of dried ginger powder, fennel and asafoetida. These are the three main spices that define the flavors of this regional dish.


3/4 lb meat (mutton/goat meat/lamb), preferably meat with lot of fat – cut in 2 inch pieces

scant 3/4 cup yogurt + 2 tablespoon yogurt (yogurt should be well drained or use Greek yogurt)

5-6 onions and Garlic ( paste will do better)

4 green cardamom – powdered (peel the cardamom and grind the seeds to a fine powder either with a mortar & pestle or spice grinder)

2 black cardamom – powdered (peel the cardamom and grind the seeds to a fine powder either with a mortar & pestle or spice grinder)

1 inch stick of cinnamon

6 cloves

3/4 tablespoon saunf/fennel seeds, powdered – divided

1/2 tablespoon sooth/dried ginger powder

A few grinds of fresh black peppercorn

1/2 teaspoon hing/asafoetida powder (a generous pinch if using pure hing)

2 tablespoon Kashmiri red chilli powder or 10 whole red Kashmiri Chilis ground to a paste

4-5 tablespoon pure mustard oil

1 teaspoon Garam Masala

Fresh cilantro/coriander or fresh mint

Cooking Time: 1.5-2 hours

Wash the meat and pat dry. Drizzle the lemon juice, and some salt and toss and allow it to sit for about an hour. Add 2 tablespoon yogurt and 1 tablespoon mustard oil to the meat and marinate it for at least 3 hours. Overnight works better.

If you are not using Greek yogurt, drain the rest of the yogurt until thick and creamy. Whisk yogurt with red chili powder, half of the green cardamom powder and half of the black cardamom powder, all of the ginger powder, half of the fennel seed powder. Set aside.

Heat the mustard oil, or any other oil you are using. Traditionally mustard oil is used and it gives an extra edge to the flavor of the dish, but if you do not like it, then just use any other cooking oil.

Add the hing/asafoetida to the hot oil. Add the cinnamon and the fresh grind of black peppercorn and saute until aromatic, only a few seconds. When the spices sizzle add onion ginger paste. Fry till light brown. Now add meat to the pan and cook at medium heat, while tossing them occasionally until they start to brown.

This will take anywhere between 10-20 minutes.

Now add the powdered clove, remaining cardamom and fennel powder. Toss well for the spice mix to coat the meat and cook on low flame for another 10-15 minutes while scraping the bottom of the pan.

Remove pan from heat. Add a few splashes of water to the oil to cool down the content of the pan.

Wait for a minute and then add the whisked and spiced yogurt, a little at a time, to the pan and keep stirring it. Keep doing this until you have added the entire yogurt. Put the pan back on the stove in very low heat. Add 1.5 – 2 cups of water (more if you want more sauce), give it a good stir and tightly cover the pan.

Cook until the meat is tender and the oil has separated on the sides. This might take even 2 hours depending on the kind of meat you are using.

Uncover, stir in the Garam Masala. Add and adjust salt. Gently stir everything in and cover it back again until ready to serve.

Add the fresh cilantro or fresh mint if you want just before serving.

Serve with hot steamed rice or roti. Enjoy!

First Published on: July 14, 20145:05 pm
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