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What is Rogan Josh?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Rogan josh is a type of Indian curry distinguished by its thick, flavorful red sauce and tender meat. It is associated with the Kashmir region of India, although it actually may have been introduced to the country by the Moghuls. Generally, it consists of lamb or goat which has been slow-cooked in oil, yogurt, and a mix of many different spices. Despite it intense red hue, it is usually not a particularly fiery curry. Rogan josh remains a common dish in northern India, and is also a popular menu item at Indian restaurants in North America and Europe.

Most people attribute rogan josh to the Kashmir region of northern India. Some argue, however, that it was actually introduced to the Kashmiri people by the Moghuls. Whatever the dish’s true origins, its name provides a hint about the technique used to prepare it as well as its appearance. Rogan translates to clarified butter or oil in Persian, referring to the way the meat and spices are cooked, while josh means hot or fiery, referring to the dish’s deep red color.

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To prepare rogan josh, most cooks begin by browning their meat of choice — traditionally lamb or goat — in clarified butter, known in Indian cuisine as ghee. The meat is then removed and a number of spices — usually including garlic, ginger, pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, pepper, coriander, cumin, and red pepper — are added to the hot butter in stages. Next, the meat is returned to the pan along with plain yogurt. The pan is then covered and its contents are cooked over low heat for one to one and a half hours, or until the meat has become very tender.

A large number of rogan josh variations exist. For instance, some cooks add finely chopped tomatoes or tomato puree to their recipes. Others include paprika in their spice mixture. These additions alter the dish’s taste and intensify its red color.

Today, rogan josh remains popular in northern India and is also a staple menu item at Indian restaurants in North America and Europe. Its popularity in the Western world may be due partly to the fact that it is very flavorful but not intensely spicy. Even so, when asked, most restaurants will adjust the dish’s hotness to suit the diner’s palate. Often, rogan josh is served with a side of plain or spiced basmati rice, the soft, flat dipping bread known as naan, or both.

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