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Masgouf: An ancient dish withstanding the test of time

posted on: Nov 2, 2016

By: Adriana Murray/Arab America Contributing Writer

The world cannot overlook Iraq as a home to ancient recipes still being used today to bring people together. At the top of the list of Iraq’s finest meals is masgouf, a Mesopotamian meal consisting of grilled carp. Originating in the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, masgouf has been around since Babylonian times. Today masgouf can be seen all over Iraq in fish markets and restaurants along the basin.

Masgouf’s popularity has made it the national dish of Iraq, and it is often served to foreign delegations because of its lasting impression. The flavorful and aromatic dish can be found in the streets of Iraq, where the fish is often caught that day and kept alive until ordered. Iraqis living in the diasporas, such as in America and other parts of the Arab world, have continued to cook carp over a fire in their storefronts and homes.

People love the crispy texture of the fish, which is created by cooking it on a stick or a fire, or on a bar-b-que/grill. Then, the fish is garnished with lemons, creating an irresistible flavor out of simple ingredients. Variations of the dish include spices, such as turmeric and tamarind.

Masgouf has gained a reputation as a healthy dish, too, because it is not fried and the long cooking time makes all the fat burn off. To make this dish at home, try the recipe below or follow the video instructions.


  • 2 medium carps (can use another firm white-fleshed fish) gutted and scaled

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 teaspoons ground turmeric

  • 2 Tablespoons freshly pureed whole tomatoes, strained

  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the barbecue to medium heat.

  2. Split the fish open at the backbone to expose the inside flesh of the fish.

  3. Combine the turmeric, strained tomato puree, olive

  4. Oil, and salt. Using a basting brush, liberally baste the inside of the fish.

  5. Using a fish wire basket, fit the fish to keep the fish flesh exposed

  6. Place fish on the barbecue skin down and cook for 7-9 minutes and turn over to cook for another 5-7 minutes.

  7. Put on a platter and you should be able to easily remove the head and spine along with all the bones.

  8. Tender and delicious!

Recipe from

Watch this video to see traditional Masgouf being made!