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The truth about Roghanjosh

Since childhood, we were used to eating Mutton curry cooked with onions, ginger, garlic and lots of whole garam masala and spices to get real rich curries. Smells of bhuna spices with whiffs of ginger and garlic would encompass our kitchens announcing the cooking of rich mutton dishes.

I wasn’t particularly fond of red meat but since it was often prepared at home , I developed a taste for it. My knowledge of mutton curries was limited to the usual heavy Punjabi thick gravy style dishes made at home.

It was only when I entered the hospitality industry as a teenager , did I realise that there is a whole wide world of styles in which mutton can be cooked . I remember I was taken to the only Kashmiri restaurant in Delhi when I was young, called Chor Bizarre at Hotel Broadway on Asif Ali Road , and I was left thinking about the taste of the food served there.. It was so different from our usual Punjabi fare, and one of the dishes that made an impression on me was the famous RoghanJosh.


Chor Bizarre Restaurant , Broadway Hotel, Delhi

It's unfortunate, but I hadn't tasted an authentic Roganjosh outside traditional kitchens. None of them bear the faintest resemblance to the Kashmiri classic. Restaurants serve variations of this dish but I hadn't experienced its true flavours until after my marriage (my husband is Kashmiri!). .

Roghanjosh is a typical Kashmiri Hindu mutton dish which has found its place at Wazwans. Wazwan is meal of typically 36 dishes, out of which 7 dishes have permanent status and Roghanjosh is one of them .Waz means cook and waan means shop.

The Wazwan is cooked in special nickel-plated copper vessels over simmering fires of wood, preferably from old fruit trees.

An average Wazwan has over a dozen-and-a-half dishes, most of them mutton and chicken based, besides growing additions like mushrooms, vegetarian dishes and innovations on the traditional mutton-based ones.

Some of the commonly cooked Wazwan dishes are tabak maz (fatty lamb ribs deep fried in ghee and served sizzling hot), rista (balls of thoroughly minced mutton cooked in a rich, oily gravy of spices and red chillies), rogan josh (large mutton pieces cooked in a rich spicy gravy), aab gosht (large pieces of lamb's shoulder cooked in milk without any hot spices) mirch korma (small pieces of mutton cooked with lots and lots of red chillies and other spices).

The king dish of all the Wazwan feasts that tells the guests that the nearly two-hour-long indulgence of eating and chatting is over is the gustaba (large balls of thoroughly minced mutton cooked in yoghurt, butter and other spices without chillies).

There are many other dishes like kebabs and methi maz (dry fried or gravy chicken), apart from pulao, curd, chuttnies and cold drinks.

Guests arrive at a large hall, where groups of four assemble around a large tin-coated copper plate called the trami on which the Wazwan is served.

Dressed in neat, white cotton pheran (a traditional Kashmiri overgarment) and wearing a white skullcap, the Waza serves different courses moving from one trami to the other course after course.


Trami ..used for serving food to four persons at a time

(Reference from ndtv online article/ Indian Express)

It has created a false identity for itself as most people think it's one of the toughest dishes to cook. In reality it's one of the easiest but requires a lot of patience.

Some say Roghan means clarified butter or fat in Persian, or closest to "rohan" which is rooh or soul , and josh means intense or possibly a mispronounciation of Ghosht.(meaning meat)..The debate is still on..

One view is that Roghanjosh was brought into Kashmir by the Mughals, adapted from the Persian korma who frequented the place to get respite from the heat on the plains.

Kashmiri cuisine is divided into Kashmiri Pandit style and the Muslim style (onions and garlic are used in the latter style, which the Pandits use asafoetida which has excellent healing properties in their food). Roghan josh is a Pandit dish famously made without onions and garlic.

Roghanjosh is lamb / goat in chunks, cooked with a gravy made with yoghurt, ginger and aromatic spices. It's brilliant crimson colour comes from Ratan jot or Alkanna Tictoria, (a plant whose roots are also used as a red dye), or liberal amounts of dried red Kashmir chillies. This spice usually gives aroma rather than heat. Saffron too is a part of traditional recipes.

After I discovered its authentic taste of Roghanjosh, I couldn’t eat the casual variants served in restaurants.

How old is Roghanjosh? Well , as old as its ingredients are, which are all non indigenous to the Kashmir region and brought from the New world or South India, so it would be safe to say maybe centuries ago.

Today I serve you an authentic mutton curry (Punjabi home style) , if you are craving for a tomato based curry and the true Roghanjosh from a traditional Kashmiri kitchen.

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Homestyle Punjabi Mutton curry

Serves 5-6


1 kg Indian Mutton (shoulder pieces or boneless)

5-7medium sized chopped red tomato/ 2 ½ cups tomato puree

5 medium sized chopped onions or make an onion paste in grinder

2 tsps ginger paste

2 tsps garlic paste

1 ½ tsp coriander powder (dhaniya powder)

1 ½ tsp cumin powder (jeera)

1 ½ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1 tsp garam masala powder

Whole garam Masala:

½ tsp whole cumin

4-5 Cloves

3-4 Black cardamom

3-4 Green cardamom

2 Bay leaves

½ inch Cinnamon stick

1 cup whisked yoghurt

Coriander leaves

mutton 1_edited.jpg

To prepare:

1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan . Add the whole garam masala. When the garam masalas begin to crackle add the ginger and garlic paste and sauté.

2. Add the finely chopped onions and tomatoes or tomato puree and add all the powdered spices. If you are using onion paste, then, as you cook the paste, let the water evaporate and the onion will begin to brown. Sauté till the oil comes on top of the mixture.

3. Add the mutton pieces and cook very well till they become brown. This is called “Bhuno”

4. When the mutton is browned, add 3 cups of water till the mutton is submerged in the water. Cover and cook on a slow flame.

5. Let it cook for at least 1 hr. Check if the mutton is fully cooked and tender. If not cook for some more time until tender. The more you cook the mutton on a slow flame , the more tender it will get .

6. When the mutton gets cooked, add the yoghurt in it and cover and cook for a further 20 minutes or so. The colour of the gravy will darken.

Season, garnish with chopped fresh coriander and enjoy with Rice or Naan.

Tip: You could also marinate the mutton in yoghurt and mustard oil. Make incisions in the mutton and massage these two ingredients into the mutton pieces. Keep for 30-40 minutes. This makes the mutton more tender when cooked.

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Mutton Curry with Rice


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Serves 5-6


1 kg mutton, 1/2 inch pieces

230 gms ghee

115 gms of yoghurt

2 tsp asafoetida ,hing , mixed in water

2 tsp ginger powder, saunth

4 cloves

2 tsp kashmiri red chillies

2 bay leaves

6 gms poppy seeds,khus khus, ground

30 gms of almonds,ground

2 tsp garam masala in 60 gms of yoghurt

Salt to taste

To prepare:

1. Place the mutton in the ghee . Add salt to taste and whisked yoghurt and cook.

2. When the yoghurt starts to become red, add the asafoetida mixed in the water.Keep on cooking add the asafetida water.

3.When the mutton becomes brown, then add the ginger powder, cloves, red chillies,bay leaves and around 500 ml of water and leave to cook.

4. After it has cooked for a while , maybe 15 minutes , cover the pan with a tight lid and cook on dum, slow heat.

5. When the mutton is completely cooked , add the ground almonds and poppy seeds.(you will not get pooppy seeds here, so you can omit it)

6.Then add the garam masal in whisked yoghurt . Cook for another 15 minutes .

Serve hot with Rice

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Traditionally served with Rice

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Or you can choose a Naan

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As I leave you with both these recipes, I do begin to wonder what is authenticity ....? Is it what you have experienced in your childhood, that which your mother or grandmother prepared for you since you see it in the purest of forms. While the world changes , evolves and produces variations , we hold on to what our ancestors have left behind ...that becomes authentic to us...

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