Every Iraqi dish tells a different story

Every Iraqi meal tells a different story of ancient history, but perhaps one of the most popular dishes would have to be the seafood based national dish, Samak Masouf, which dates back to the Sumerian and Babylonian ages.

By Jasmine Al Kuttab

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Iraqi cuisine dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, almost 2,000 BC.
Iraqi cuisine dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, almost 2,000 BC.

Published: Mon 12 Jun 2017, 7:52 PM

Last updated: Mon 10 Jun 2024, 8:18 AM

Iraq, the land known as the cradle of civilisation, also has a cuisine which is one of the oldest. Iraqi cuisine dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, almost 2,000 BC.

From soups to meat drowned in yogurt, to vegetables stuffed with rice and minced meat, and of course, freshly caught fish that is cooked over fire pits, the Babylonians certainly loved their food back then, as modern Iraqis do today.


Every Iraqi meal tells a different story of ancient history, but perhaps one of the most popular dishes would have to be the seafood based national dish, Samak Masouf, which dates back to the Sumerian and Babylonian ages.

This dish is loved by Iraqis and non-Iraqis from all over the world. That explains why it is served in restaurants not only in the Middle East but also in the West, including London, where my Iraqi cousins often enjoy the meal and have a little taste of their home country


A country that some of them never had the chance to really see in real life, but only through pictures.

The Tigris River in Bagdad was famous for the finest and freshest fishes that were used in this cuisine.

The popular dish consists of a large, whole white freshwater fish, (carp, sea bream, butterfield), which must be gutted, cleaned, scaled and spread into a flat piece, prior to seasoning it with rock salt, tamarind, ground turmeric and olive oil.

The fish is then impaled on a piece of wood by an open fire, which is often filled with twigs from bitter-orange, fig or apricot trees, and date palm leaves.

The unique combination help gives the fish it's tangy, yet opulent flavour.

The fish is often eaten on its own, or with freshly squeezed lemon, mango chutney, Iraqi pickles, rice, or the popular Iraqi crisp flatbread, which is cooked in a clay oven.

The final result? The fish comes out crisp at the top, moist and meaty inside, juicy, yet sweet and tangy at the same time.

It is truly a rainbow of complex, yet incredible flavours that simply arose just about anyone's taste buds.


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