Rogan Josh, best described as a rich and aromatic lamb curry, is an Indian dish synonymous to the mountainous region of Kashmir. From the original Persian, “Rogan” roughly translates as red while “Josh” means hot or boiling. The gastronomically sensitive need not be alarmed – the vibrant scarlet hue of this dish is due to the considerable amounts of deseeded and dried Kashmiri mirch (chillies), not as an indication of the spiciness of the dish.
Without the seeds, the chillies release a mild, earthy taste that is elevated by a medley of different spices and herbs. This gravy of braised lamb features ginger, garlic, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves amongst other ingredients to produce a unique and intensely flavourful combination. Cooked with oil at extremely high heat, this hearty meal is the perfect representation of Kashmir: colourful, enigmatic and glorious.
Somewhere around the 1950s, through the process of gastronomical exchange brought on by colonisation, Rogan Josh was introduced to the United Kingdom, rendering the British people madly and deeply in love. More than six decades later, it continues to be upheld as one of the most popular dishes in British curry houses. With globalisation creating more adventures appetites, Rogan Josh has reached mass, universal appeal, creating enthusiastic fanbases anywhere in the world with access to Indian Food.
The province of Kashmir, contained within the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, is located mostly on the Himalayan mountains. While the regional temperature is not uniform and adjusts to the seasons, it is cool year-round. The overt liveliness of this dish perfectly contrasts and, yet also strangely fits perfectly with, the chilly atmosphere of the Himalayas. It is no wonder that Rogan Josh has remained a staple of Kashmiri food since the mid 1500s.
This dish, due to its universal appeal, is a source of great pride for the Kashmiri people. This is why there has been a long-drawn and contentious debate over its origin. According to some, Rogan Josh was brought over to Kashmir by the Mughals of Persia. For most locals, however, it is a meal originated in Kashmir as part of the centuries’ old Wazwan tradition.
Wazwan is a meal with multiple courses, the preparation of which takes immense skill and effort. It is so highly revered in Kashmir that preparing a satisfying Wazwan is respected as akin to an art form. Rogan Josh is most often highlighted as one of the star dishes presented and its success can completely make or break the meal. Given the huge amount of esteem attributed to the Rogan Josh, it is no wonder that the Kashmiri people passionately assert that the dish is their own creation.
Despite this food-centred conflict, the Rogan Josh has been and will continue to be a prime staple of Kashmiri food for a long time. The next time you travel to India, make sure to take some time to visit Kashmir so you can get a taste of the authentic, mouth-watering Rogan Josh!