Friday, September 17, 2010

Mutton Rogan Josh -- any which way

Last week when I decided to cook Mutton Rogan Josh I found that it was as disputed as Park 51 if not more. There were several manifestations of the dish depending on where you came from.None radically different from each other but differing in subtleties that was enough to cause mayhem. Every one looked down upon the other Rogan Josh and there was much confusion about the authentic version.

For all you know Rogan Josh could be God.

From the several sites I visited I could narrow it down to the following.
Not God, Rogan Josh !

1. Authentic Rogan Josh -- This is the version created by the Kashmiri Brahmins, a clan who ruled India after the Mughals and Brits. Kashmiri Brahmins have the same food philosophy as Bengali Brahmins and are happy to eat meat as long as it is made satwik way with no onion or garlic. This version of the Rogan Josh has no onion or garlic but has Hing/Asafoetidia. The red color of the dish is brought by a root known as "Ratan Jot" found only in the Kashmir Valley. Recipe is here and here and here...

2. British Indian Rogan Josh -- This is the version created by HaraCurry Singh Patak in Glasgow, UK. This version was cooked like any other mutton dish with onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes in the small galley kitchen but was given a brand new name. It was made mild so as not to upset the Brits who loved curry and HaraCurry. Soon it became popular among Indians and non-Indians living abroad and depending on the heat tolerance quotient(HTQ) of the clients the dish was made Red with Red Chili Powder, Red with Kashmiri Mirch or Orange with Food Coloring, the last being the most popular.

3. North Indian Rogan Josh -- Exactly same as British Indian Rogan Josh, made popular in Delhi by HaraCurry Singh Patak's second cousin Dhaba Singh Telwala. The cousins share the exact same recipe and this version only differs in the amount of oil floating on top of the dish. Grease being not a problem in India and available cheap the chef uses all kinds in this dish.

4. South Indian Rogan Josh -- This recipe was a novel creation by Swami Idli Iyer who had fallen in love with this dish on his tryst with the Brits in the late 1940's. Swami never told his mother Rasam Amma that he ate meat, smoked tobacco and never took his meals at Chennai Tiffin while in London.Instead he told her Rogan Josh-a was made with Jackfruit and was offered as Prasadam at the Balaji temple in UK. His version has fragrant curry leaves and grated coconut and is popular in Udupi restaurants.

5. Bengali Rogan Josh -- This version was created by Mishti Kumro Mukherjee who on her visit to Delhi was as impressed by the height and physique of the Punjabis as she was with the Red Fort. She took to feeding her "roga"(thin) son Rogan Josh every day at lunch since she felt that is what made the Paanjabi "mota"(fat translates to strong in Bengali) and not "roga" and also gave them "Josh"(fame & money). She added a good amount of sugar to this dish to make it mishti and marinated the mutton in mustard oil. No news of the son was ever reported.

6. Madhur Jaffrey Rogan Josh-- Whether this version was created by Madam Jaffrey, her mother's cook or a cook at Sitar I cannot tell. This version has onion and garlic but no tomatoes. It is made by people who blog and are not sure of what is the exact way to make Rogan Josh. The recipe is from here and it says Preparation Time :0:00, whatever that means.

*Recipe Number 2 to 5 are partly figments of the author's demented mind who has lots of time on her hand today. They do exist though.

If I am honest and look deep down in my heart and squint through the arteries, blood vessels, muscles and whatever they have there I should tell you that I wanted to make Rogan Josh as per Recipe Number 1. The only reason why Number 1 tilted my favor is it does not have onion. I can go any lengths to not chop an onion. I am lazy that way.

However I was supposed to take the mutton dish to a Bong Picnic and anyone who has been to a Bong Picnic knows how important a role food plays there. Bongs do not play badminton, antakshari, cricket or dumb charade at Picnics. They eat and chat and eat in a vicious cycle. I couldn't take risks at such a place. I have never cooked mutton sans onion & garlic. If my mutton dish faltered, I could as well be ousted and denied the Luchi, Alur Dom, Lyangcha which also featured on the menu. So I chose recipe Number 6, simply because of the brand name which backed it.

Recipe Number 6 was actually great. Even the measures worked perfect. I however added Fennel seed Powder from Recipe 1 to this one because I thought it would give this dish the unique flavor. In the end it was not a whole lot different from any other mutton curry but it definitely was one more great mutton curry. Go cook your own version of Mutton Rogan Josh or just follow this one. If you don't eat mutton substitute with chicken or jackfruit(kathal), really.


Mutton Rogan Josh

This is an easy dish to cook and the only factor is time taken to cook the mutton. Do not use pressure cooker to cook the meat, the flavor comes out only on slow cooking.

What You Need

Mutton(Goat meat) or Lamb ~ 2 &1/2 lb, shoulder or front leg cut in medium pieces
Marinate the meat for 2-3 hours in 1 tsp ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, 2 tsp vinegar or lime juice, a little turmeric and salt

For Gravy

Fresh Ginger peeled and chopped ~ 2"
Garlic ~ 8 fat cloves

Onion ~ 2 cups finely chopped

Yogurt ~ 6 tbsp

Oil for Cooking

Spices in Gravy

Cumin powder ~ 2 tsp
Corriander Powder ~ 1 tsp
Fennel Seed Powder ~ 2 tsp
Kashmiri Mirch ~ 1 tsp or more to get the coloring
Red Chili Powder ~ 1/2 tsp to start and then to taste

Pepper powder ~ 1/4 tsp
Garam masala ~ 1/4 tsp

For Tempering

Green Cardamom/Choti Elaichi ~ 6-8 pods
Black Cardamom/Badi Elaichi ~ 2 pods
Bay Leaf/Tej Patta ~ 2 small
Clove/Laung ~ 6 whole
Whole Black peppercorn/Kali Mirch ~ 10 whole
Cinnamon/Dalchini ~ one 2" stick
Mace/Javetri ~ 1/2 tsp

How I Did It

Marinate the mutton as instructed for 2-3 hours in 1 tsp ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, 2 tsp vinegar or lime juice, a little turmeric and salt

Put the ginger, garlic and very little water in a blender and blend well into a smooth paste.

Heat White oil in a wide, heavy pot over a medium-high flame. Add the meat in a single layer and saute till they are browned. Add a dash of Kashmiri Mirch while frying the meat. Remove and set aside.

Temper the same oil with all spices listed under tempering. Wait a few seconds for the spices to sizzle.

Now add the onion. Fry the onions to a medium brown color.

Add the ginger-garlic paste that you made and saute for the next minute or so.

Now add the dry spices the Cumin Powder, Corriander powder, Fennel powder, Kashmiri Mirch and red Chili Powder. With a sprinkle of water fry the masala till you see oil separating from the edges.

Now add the browned meat cubes along with the meat juices. Mix well so that the meat is coated with the masala. Now lower the heat and put in 1 tablespoon of the yogurt and stir and fry for about 30 seconds until yogurt is well blended. Add the remaining yogurt, a tablespoon at a time in the same way. Stir and fry for another 3-4 minutes at low heat.

Add 1&1/2-2 cups of water and salt to taste. Mix everything well, scraping the sides and bottom of cooking pot. Bring the gravy to a boil.Check to see if salt and red chili powder is in correct amount. If you need it more hot add more chili powder.

Cover, turn heat to medium-low and simmer for about an hour or two until meat is tender. Every 10 minutes give the pot a good stir to prevent burning. If the gravy is becoming too dry add some more water.
When the meat is tender, take off the lid, turn the fire to medium high and boil off some of the excess liquid, stirring all the time, until the sauce is thickened.

Sprinkle the garam masala and black pepper over the dish and mix them in just before you serve it.

Trivia: Rogan means oil in Persian, while josh means heat, hot, boiling, or passionate. Rogan josh thus means cooked in oil at intense heat. Another interpretation of the name rogan josh is derived from the word rogan meaning color and josh meaning passion, hot or red. So this is a meat dish which is red in color.


  1. nice post truly enjoyed reading ,..;-)

  2. I can't stop laughing!! Your imagination is really going wild!:)

  3. LOL @ Mishti Kumro Mukherjee and HaraCurry Singh - Rogan Josh with tomatoes is harakiri.

    I hope you did get your luchi-alu'r dom and Lyangcha at the picnic. I have a feeling your Rogan Josh was a hit.

  4. you did right, Sandeepa, bongs can't imagine mutton without onion..tomar version of rogan josh is looking great, must be a hit in picnic..from where you got all those info about british, south Indian version..haste haste pate betha hoye gelo..lovely post

  5. I didn't even know there was so much variety of rogan josh.
    Thislooks absloutly yummy, i so much wish we got mutton here.

  6. hahaha ... did not realise at 2 but on 5 knew it was yours. :)
    fennel is used abundantly in kashmiri cuisine ... so your rogan josh is authentic ... ki shundor colour hoyeche.

  7. :) HaraCurry Singh

    I like the 'authentic' one, without onion, with fennel, hing, etc. It looks just like yours.

  8. HaraCurry Singh,Dhaba Singh Telwala,Swami Idli Iyer,Mishti Kumro Mukherjee ...I am still giggling....That's a truly a gag....I too agree mutton can't be tasted better if onions are not added...

    Amar blog ta somoy pele akbar visit koro..akta golpo lekhar try korechhi..inspired by you people...tumi feedback dile ektu jor pabo...

  9. I have had Rogan Josh cooked by a Punjabi aunty and it was delicious for sure, so delicious I forgot to ask for a recipe.

    And your looks perfect Sandeepa. Isn't tomatoes important for Rogan Josh?

  10. Notyet

    Ha, ha...soon after I wrote this post I was loaded with work, hah


    Yeah picnic was fabulous, I ate so many luchis that I had tummy troubles later at night :(

    Hee, hee. I am thinking I will try chicken rogan josh tomorrow, the authentic way.

    Oh NO. Don't take it seriously, those are not even true


    I am so glad you have logged on !!!!


    I don't think i have ever had the "authentic" one


    But I will give "no onion" a try tomorrow


    Ahhh, but that is good, you can always wait for an invite. Apparently tomato in Rogan Josh is sneered upon but one of the version does add them, according to wiki

  11. Dear sandeepa
    thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the dish too.
    Time to cook the only Rogan Josh I know, that old Kashmiri version
    Have a nice sunday

  12. Once again a lovely write-up..I just love Rogan Josh-Ma'r haather rogan josh'r taste ta mone pore jachhe tomar lekha ta pore..

    Best Regards

  13. ROTFL its hilarious but youve caught amazing Regional culinary idiosyncracies just right . Im with you on the onions :)

  14. LOL,I ve tasted once or twice don't even remember how it look like.
    Ur friends would have enjoyed this dish :)

  15. HaraCurry and Mishti Mukherjee..! I like her idea of mustard oil though.. :D Bong Mom's exploits in the land of Rogan Josh are the perfect start to a good weekend! :D

  16. Sandy that was really hilarious..I really hope the author gets demented frequently if this is the outcome of that..:)

  17. I told you before as well..
    Your writing skills are too good....Food am yet to taste...but writing..kono kotha hobe na!!


  18. Loved the part about the Bong picnic thing. My aunt-in-law from CA had told me about this exact peculiarity of Bong picnic in the States.
    Lovely recipe, hubby and me are going to prepare it next weekend and definitely as per your tried and tested recipe.

  19. Haracurry..was he cleverly named to rhyme harakiri :) ppl die for his food..
    but am slurppin lookin at the mutton curry..going to make it tomorrow :P :P..
    Alur dom? means potato??.. I was there in Kolkata for the last 2 years..sorry if I offend you..but was sick with potatoes.. that too when served in biryani [to a person coming from hyderabad..thats me]
    really loved reading your blog.

  20. Sandeepa naam gulo porchi ar haschi. mishti kumro naam ta khub pachondo holo. rogan josh byapok dekhte lagche...nischai picnic e mega hit hoeche.

  21. First time in ur blog..luved ur sense of words...and the recipes too...u got a good collection of it

  22. Loved reading this post...
    Say my hello to Mishti Kumro Mukherjee ...
    khoob mishti golpo koro tumi Sandeepa...

  23. Hmm.... well atleast Bongs know how to picnic ;) There is no question of picknicking in Chennai where the seasons are "hot, hotter and hottest"!

    The fennel seeds looks like a good addition, though from your description I wouldnt have thought you would have chosen no 6! :)

  24. I once enjoyed a non onion non garlic mutton preparation during kalipujo which was prepared from the sacrificed animal. That was really nice.

  25. Sandeepa,
    Kashmiri cuisine e amar mone hoye ja fennel/mouri bhishon use hoye and ginger too ..I cant imagine our mutton curry without onions ..and this looks so so delicious,feel like eating it right now :-)..
    hugs and smiles

  26. Love your blog.

    Do try the kashmiri way, it turns out superb. I have a recipe which uses ginger pdr, dahi,hing, no garlic and it is one of the best meat dishes in my collection.

  27. Mouth Watering! Although, it tastes better with Goat then Lamb and use less oil for cooking with lamb since it has high fat content.

  28. Hi,

    great yummy recipe...



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