Authenticity and Taste: The Origins of Rogan Josh

Posted on: 23 January 2019

Sometimes when you cook a meal, it can be tempting to replace authenticity with convenience. There's nothing wrong with this because sometimes you just need to get dinner on the table at a reasonable time, so your sweet and sour sauce might come straight from a jar whose ingredients list features a number of barely pronounceable chemical compounds. It's still tasty, but as with many types of international cuisine, the difference between a version of the meal served at restaurants and that which came from a jar is remarkable. This can be said of Indian food, and premade Indian food from the supermarket definitely lacks a certain something. Just think of rogan josh, a dish that is both rich in flavour as well as history, and this richness cannot so easily be recreated in a jar which might then sit on a supermarket shelf for months.

The Meaning of the Name

Rogan josh is one of the more popular types of Indian food in Australia, and possibly throughout the world. But who is this Josh? There are two theories behind the name. The first is that using the Urdu and Kashmiri dialects, the words rogan josh can be loosely translated into 'red juice' (or sometimes 'red meat'), which could be a reference to the colour of the sauce. The other possible explanation is that it translates as a dish that has been stewed in ghee. Ghee is a clarified butter popular in Indian food, and this explanation is translated from Persian.

The Origins of the Dish

It's speculated that rogan josh has its origins in the Mughal Empire, which once dominated large patches of India, and the neighbouring countries, including what is now Afghanistan. There were a number of overlaps between the territories of the Mughal Empire and the Persian Empire throughout their long histories, so there are many crossovers between the two powers, such as language—and perhaps even rogan josh.

The Meat

So while there was no gentleman called Josh who invented the dish, this slowly-simmered mix of cardamom, ginger, cloves, bay leaves, yogurt and other delicious additions remains a welcome addition on the menu of Indian restaurants. Lamb is synonymous with the dish, although it's not the only choice of meat. Lamb can speed up the preparation time as the meat is already tender. Mutton is also used, but it requires extra simmering time to reach the desired tenderness. Goat can be another option.

You probably won't reflect upon the history of the dish the next time you're enjoying a plate of rogan josh at your local Indian restaurant, but you might be more grateful to have rogan josh that didn't come from a jar.


Saving Money at Restaurants Without Sacrificing Quality

Hi, my name is Kate, and my absolute favourite thing to do is to eat out at restaurants. However, as a freelance writer, my wallet is not necessarily always overflowing. As a result, I often cannot afford all of the meals I would like. Over the years, I have learned how to dine out without overspending, and I would love to share those tips. If you have a love of fine dining but don't want to spend too much cash, this blog is for you. I have kids as well so some of these tips will focus on saving money when kids are at the table as well. Enjoy and bon appetit!