Interestingly, it was in Iraq that the first cooking recipe “books” were discovered. The age of these clay tablets, according to some sources, is about 10 thousand years.
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Most Popular Iraqi Dishes
Iraqi cuisine centres around two major staples – rice and meat. The majority of people living in Iraq are Muslims and who prefer to not eat pork due to religious reasons. The most common meats include lamb, beef and poultry. At the very beginning of a typical Iraqi meal, as almost everywhere in Central Asia, a barbecue mezze is served, accompanied by herbs, egg dishes and fermented milk products.
Iraqi cuisine, like its intricate art and culture, is a sum of its varied and rich history.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try dishes of Iraq along with recipes for you to try yourself.
Masgouf is a dish consisting of seasoned, grilled carp. It is one of Iraq’s oldest dishes that dates back to the Babylonians and Sumerians, where they used to catch fish from the Tigris River and cook it.
Fresh carp is dissected and marinated in a mixed sauce before being grilled. This mixture usually includes olive oil, salt, tamarind and turmeric.
The fish is grilled on a special type of charcoal stove. When crispy, the fish will be placed on a plate with vegetables. The dish has an attractive aroma, often served with herbs, lemon and served with rice.
Quzi (or Qoozi) is a dish consisting of rice with roasted, tender lamb on top, decorated with raisins, cashews and almonds. It has always been one of Iraq’s most beloved dishes and is often served at festivals or family gatherings.
Quzi takes almost a day to slow roast, and the lamb is stuffed with fragrant rice, spices, vegetables and nuts.
Tepsi Baytinijan is a casserole dish that consists of fried eggplants wrapped around small spiced meatballs, grilled in a tomato sauce. Every Iraqi family has their own way of making it and distinct variations of the dish.
Dolma is a dish consisting of lamb meat and spiced rice wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves. Dolma is also quite popular in the Balkans, the Caucasus and the eastern Mediterranean.
The Iraqi preparation of Dolma uses minced lamb, rice, nuts and spices topped with lemon zest.
Marag Bamya is a stew dish typically made out of lamb or beef cubes, tomato and okra. It also includes a variety of tomato blends cooked with pumpkin, eggplant, and Bengal gram.
Margat Qeema is a dish associated with the sacred month of Muharram. It is typically prepared from finely ground meat, lime zest, lentils and a plethora of other ingredients, all eaten with warm rice.
Tashreeb is a dish consisting of a layer of thick bread also known as ‘naan’ at the bottom of the plate and a chicken-soup poured over on top to soak the bread. A wide range of veggies and meat are then mixed with the broth.
Bagila Bil Dihin
Bagila Bil Dihin is a dish consisting of broad beans topped with eggs and served with bread. It can be eaten by tearing the bread with your hands and scooping the ingredients on to it.
Makhlama is a dish that consists of soft boiled eggs on a pan of ground beef, onions, parsley, spices and tomatoes.
Kubba Bil Burghur
Kubba (also known as Kibbeh or Kubbah) is a type of meatball bound together with rice or bulgur. It is not only popular in Iraq but also across the whole of the Middle East.
Though there are many ways to make it, the Iraqi version of Kubba is very popular. It is particularly famous in the Iraqi city of Mosul and as a result is known as Kubbah Mosul. From nuts to cheese to rice, it can be stuffed with a range of of ingredients according to taste.
Amba is a fermented mango condiment made from firm unripe mangoes, spices and peppers placed in a jar. A salty brine is poured over the ingredients and the jar is sealed and set aside to ferment for over a week. Once it has fermented sufficiently, the amba is pureed to the desired level of chunkiness. It has a spicy, fermented, sour flavor.
Photo credit: Tom Ipri
Tulumba, also known as Pomba, Bamiyeh or Balaḥ ash-Shām, is a deep-fried dessert.
It prepared using an unleavened dough lump, which is shaped as a small ovoid and includes ridges lengthways. It is shaped with the help of a pastry bag or cookie press, which has a fitting end part.
Tulumba is initially deep-fried to give this dessert a golden colour, and then sugar-sweet syrup is added on top while it’s still hot.
Qatayef is a kind of sweet dumpling that is stuffed with cream or nuts (typically a mixture of hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios and raisins). Other ingredients include unsalted cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon.
This Arab delicacy is typically consumed during the month of Ramadan. Some people also define it as a folded pancake. It is usually accompanied by a hot, sweet syrup or, occasionally, honey.