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Masgouf, commonly known as ‘Semec Masguf’ is a traditionally spiced and grilled fish-based Iraqi dish. Made with whole fish, the key factors in the success of this dish are the right mix of spices and correct cooking temperature.

Considered Iraq’s National dish, it is an integral dish of the cuisine of modern Iraq.

Origin of Semec Masguf

A well-liked dish for fish eaters, masgouf has its origin in Southern Mesopotamia ( the modern Iraq). Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq and the shores of Tigris river are famous for having dozens of restaurants ‘dedicated’ to this fish-based dish. However, masguf can also be found all over Iraq from the northern to southern regions.

Masgouf Recipe: Ingredients and Preparation Overview

Large and oily fish of the carps species, caught from freshwater of Tigris-Euphrates Basin are essentially used to make Masgouf. Most commonly, this dish is prepared ‘live’ in the Iraqi restaurants. The fish is killed on the spot by hitting with a rod on the forehead of the fish. The gutted and scaled fish is then cut lengthwise from the belly to open it up while still keeping it in one piece. The skin of the fish is allowed to remain on it.

The open portion of the fish is generally basted with a marinade comprising olive oil, turmeric powder, tamarind and rock salt. After marination, the fish is either placed on two wooden sticks or locking grills (specially designed cast iron grills) for cooking. The fish is barbequed over the fire for at least 2-3 hours depending upon the weight and size of the carps. Carps are generally fatty therefore the fish is cooked until all the fat is dripped or burnt out.

Once cooked, the fish becomes crispy due to the presence of skin.

Serving and Eating of Masguf

A big tray is usually required to serve the fish which is garnished with lime and onion slices. Iraqi pickles are the best accompaniments served with the masgouf. Quite often, the flavor of the fish is enhanced by mango chutney applied inside it.

The fish is then covered with a large freshly baked crispy flatbread to keep the fish hot until it is served.

Variation of Masgouf Recipe

Though the recipe is almost same, the grilling method adopted by the Northern Iraqis is different from those belonging to the other regions of Iraq. Clay oven, which consumes lesser time than iron grill or wooden sticks, is popularly used in Northern Iraq..


Jacques Chirac, the former President of France, who was invited by Saddam Hussein to Iraq specially dined on masgauf there. He fell for this Iraqi dish and admired it very much.