Samak Masgouf ~ Raghad Al Safi shares the recipe of Iraq’s National Dish

(Last Updated On: 1st June 2020)

By Raghad Al Safi: Those fortunate enough to enjoy a twilight stroll among the outdoor restaurants lining the banks of the Tigris River will be tempted by the many eateries serving this fish dish. Noses are lured by the aroma of burning logs; eyes light up at the sight of dancing flames; ears listen intently at the crackling blaze; mouths salivate and hands gleefully rub together in anticipation of the delicious fish.

This anticipation does justice to the rich ritual required to prepare this meal – one that many consider the national dish of Iraq. The ceremony that surrounds samak masgouf starts with the large oily fish (generally carp) caught fresh from the Tigris-Euphrates basin.

It continues with the fish gutted and scaled, generously basted in a mixture of olive oil, rock salt and tamarind, before being impaled on a sharp piece of wood, suspended between two other sticks speared into the sand and placed surrounding an open fire fuelled by apricot tree twigs or date palm leaves, and left to cook.

It concludes with the fish – well-cooked and crispy on the outside – laid on a big tray garnished with lime (or lemon), slices of onion and Iraqi pickles, ready for hungry diners.

Your suburban backyard may be miles away from Promenade Abu Nuwas where it is particularly popular, but with a bit of precision and planning you can bring a taste of the Tigris home.

Do read our review of Raghad Al Safi’s cookbook The Iraqi Kitchen.

Samak Masgouf, from Raghad Al Safi's book - The Iraqi Kitchen

Samak Masgouf, from Raghad Al Safi’s book – The Iraqi Kitchen

Samak Masgouf

[print-me target=”div#printsection”]

Serves 5


  • 1 whole, fresh, oily fish
  • salt, pepper and tamarind to taste
  • 2 sliced tomatoes
  • 2 sliced onions


  1. Cut fish lengthwise. Butterfly, clean, wash and sprinkle with salt, pepper and tamarind. Make two incisions on the outer side of the fish skin. Prepare an open fire and spear a pair of sticks into the ground, approximately 30 centimetres away from the flame. Using these sticks, spear the incisions into the fish, and facing it inwards, allow the fish to cook for approximately 50 minutes to an hour, until well barbequed.

  2. Lay the fish on its back and allow it to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with tomato and onion slices.

[The Iraqi Table is published by Motivate Publishing and is available in leading bookstores and at Motivate Publishing has shared the following recipes along with the images from Raghad Al Safi’s cookbook to FoodeMag. We may have altered it to match the format in which our all recipes appear in this website.]

More recipes from The Iraqi Kitchen:

No Replies to "Samak Masgouf ~ Raghad Al Safi shares the recipe of Iraq's National Dish"

    Leave a reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Samak Masgouf ~ Raghad Al Safi shares the recipe of Iraq’s National Dish

    by Foodemag time to read: 2 min