Iraq, UAE – Masgouf (National dish of Iraq)

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by Adelina Aida

The most important and lovable dish of Iraq that is also a national dish of Iraq is this dish. This dish masgouf is a fish dish that is seasoned with all the aromatic and spicy with full of flavors herbs and spices. Then this fish is grilled in the open fire to have a crispy layer outside the fish skin and make it soft and juicy from the inside meat. The meat of fish is usually salted so we must not overload the salt. Fish has rich in fats and salts, this dish is balancing all the flavors of fish with other Iraqi herbs and spices. This fish is usually cooked from freshwater fish and sometimes other seafood items like crabs, other varieties of fish, and prawns. This dish as the base of any dish can be added in rice, in salads, in the form of curry, etc. The cooking method of this dish is also different. Grilling is done by the open fire and charcoaling to give nice color, flavors, and aroma to this dish. While grilling on the charcoal, the fumes and smoke give the dish, either meat to vegetable a very nice flavor. This is similar to burnt flavor, some like to have this aroma in their dish and some don’t.

This dish is well recognized by Middle Eastern restaurants and other Middle Eastern countries. Like fish is very simple and light ingredients that need less time to cook and tastes delicious. It is served with different kinds of sauces and other curries. Hummus is a very popular sauce that goes well with this dish. This is a very flavorful dish and has all the elements that it can be eaten as it is without any sauce and curries. It tastes amazing and has all the nutrition. Fish is a very nutritious ingredient and the cooking method of grilling makes it, even more, healthier because of the fish’s fat, less oil or butter is used.

Whole fish is cooked instead of fish pieces. This is the way to represent this dish, masgouf. It is butterflied in the way to remove all the bones and fresh flesh is ready to cook. It is garnished with lemon juice, green coriander, and mint leaves.

MESOPOTAMIAN CUISINE

Iraqi cuisine is called Mesopotamian cuisine. It is originated by different regional cuisines :

  • Persians
  • Iraq
  • Mesopotamian Arabs
  • Sumerians
  • Akkadians
  • Babylonians

This Mesopotamian cuisine is different from region to region around the whole world. It has different aspects of ingredients and cooking style in this cuisine. In Bagdad, the Golden era of the Abbasid Caliphate, the importance of the kitchen with dishes and varieties increases, and dishes from different cuisine were introduced to Mesopotamian cuisine. The tradition of Iran, Turkey reflects the Mesopotamian cuisine even now, after hundreds of years. Because the origin of cuisine has an influence on these traditions.

This dish is very popular throughout the world, especially in the Middle east :

  1. Syria
  2. UAE
  3. lybia
  4. Persia
  5. Jordan
  6. Lebanon
  7. Egypt
  8. Israel
  9. Palastine, etc.

HISTORY OF MASGOUF

Masgouf is a very old and traditional dish of Mesopotamian cuisine. It was eaten and cooked in Sumer and Akkad. It is a well-recognized dish at the time of the Abbasid Caliphate. Pistachio nuts are very common nuts at the time of 6570 BC. There is little evidence of its presence at the JARMO in Iraq.

Cuneiform tablets are the book in which many traditional dishes and cuisines are written according to Mesopotamian cuisine. There are 24 old dishes of stews and vegetables with fish is written.

There are two books of dishes from old Bagdad in which different dishes are written :

  • Kitab-al-Tabikh written by Abu Muhammad al-Muthaffar ibn Nasr ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq.
  • Kitab-al-tabikh written by Muḥammad bin al-Ḥasan bin Muḥammad bin al-Karīm al-Baghdadi.

There are some old traditional ingredients of Iraqi Cuisine :

  • Artichokes
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Quinces
  • Baladi cheese
  • Halloumi
  • Sumac
  • Za’atar
  • Baharat
  • Advieh

ETYMOLOGY OF MASGOUF

This dish is named MASGOUF, which means Grilled Fish.

This dish is cooked with some seasonings and onions, tomatoes are grilled with fish, and has all the herbs and spices. This is served with sauces especially parsley and mint sauce. Masgouf is usually cooked with freshwater carp and barbs fish, that is the traditional recipe.

ELEMENTS OF THE DISH

FISH

This dish is the very fishy dish of Iraq. It is the tradition of catching the fish life, weighed the fish, and then wash, cut, seasoned, and grilled. The spices and herbs of the fish seasoning are very tasty.

It is cooked traditionally by two famous fish :

  • Carp fish from Tigris–Euphrates river system
  • Barbs fish from Tigris–Euphrates river system

VEGETABLES

This dish is served with vegetables that are fried and sauteed in some butter and salt, pepper. There are very nice crunchy vegetables serving with the fish. We can add all other complimentary servings like rice, sauce, vegetables, fried, etc.

Sauteed vegetables most commonly used are :

  • Tomatoes
  • French beans
  • Onions
  • beans sprout, etc.

SEASONINGS

The spiciest version of this dish is cooked with lots of red chilies and green chili paste. But there are some other spices like :

  • Lebanese seven herbs
  • Yellow curry powder
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Sumac
  • Marjorum
  • Turmeric powder, etc.

SAUCES

  • Jameed sauce
  • Hummus With Tahini
  • Labneh Spread
  • Purslane Strained Yogurt Dip
  • Baba ganoush
  • Irani tarmarind and herb sauce, etc.

SERVED WITH

  • Laban
  • Rice
  • Thareed
  • Hummus
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Olives
  • Sumac onions
  • Sesame seeds paste
  • Tomatoes and cucumber

INGREDIENTS FOR MASGOUF

  1. Carp fish whole (butterflied) = 600 gram
  2. Olive oil = 4 tbsp
  3. Parsely leaves = 2 tbsp
  4. Lemon juice = 5 to 6 tbsp
  5. Spice mix = 2 tbsp
  6. Curry powder = 2 tbsp
  7. Salt = 1 tbsp
  8. Garlic chopped = 2 tbsp

TOPPING

  1. Onions pieces = 1 large
  2. Tomatoes = 1 large
  3. Beans sprouts = 10 to 15
  4. Lemon juice = 4 tbsp
  5. Green chilies = 4
  6. Olive oil = 2 tbsp
  7. Salt = 1 tsp
  8. Pepper = 1 tsp

COOKING METHOD

  1. Wash the fish properly and dry it so no water and moisture left.
  2. Marinate the fish with all the spice listed above like lemon, spices, herb and olive oil.
  3. Let this fish marinated for 2 hours for proper marination.
  4. In a time, take all the vegetables and cut into medium sized pieces.
  5. This makes the vegetable to sauteed in olive oil on high flame and add salt and pepper for flavors.
  6. Cook these vegetables on high flame to maintain the crunch and color of vegetables.
  7. When fish is marinated properly, take a grill pan and let it cook over there.
  8. You also can grill over the open fire on charcoal and proper heat.
  9. Make it crispy and nice colored fish that is juicy inside.
  10. On a platter serve this grilled fish with sauteed vegetables and sauce you like.
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