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Masgouf (or مسقوف)

One of Baghdad's best dishes is Masgouf (مسقوف), grilled fish spiced with salt, pepper and tamarind, then placed in a metal grill and barbecued in front of an open flame on the pavement. Served with rice, cooked with tomato paste, or prepared with saffron, salad, and pickles, it is a delight.
The fish is cooked near the coals of the fire altar, a common feature shared by all Masgûf restaurants. The said "altar" typically consists of a big open-air area centred by a raised, podium-like sandbox that is either round, octagonal or sometimes rectangular and in the middle of which there's always a rather large bonfire, consisting exclusively of apricot tree logs.
Masgouf has become extremely expensive, making it a dish only for special occasions for many. In an ideal world, the fish will have been caught in the Tigris....
Picture taken by me in Baghdad in 2011
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Iraqi
Servings 6
Calories 288 kcal


  • Charcoal grill


  • 2.5 kg Carp or Qattan fish (fresh)
  • 1 tsp Tamarind (paste)
  • 1 tsp Turmeric (powder)
  • 1 tsp Black pepper (ground)
  • 1 tsp Rock salt (ground)


  • Upon request of a customer, the fish is caught live and weighed. If agreed on, the animal is killed on the spot by a quick blow onto the forehead with a small rod
  • Open the belly of the fish and remove all entrails
  • Partially de-scaled the fish and cut in two identical halves from the belly up while leaving the back intact, opening the fish in the shape of a big symmetrical circle. Wash in fresh water.
  • Make a marinade by mixing the following ingredients together:
  • Coat the fish in the marinade.

Grill the fish

  • Place the fish near the coals and cook each side for 10 minutes, or until most of the fat is burned out and the outside layer is crispy.

Serve the fish

  • When the fish is well cooked and crispy on the outsides, it is typically laid on a big tray garnished with lime (or lemon), slices of onion and Iraqi pickles.
  • Serve on a big tray garnished with lime (or lemon), slices of onion and Iraqi pickles. The tray is then covered by a large crispy flatbread straight of a clay oven to keep the contents hot until served.
Keyword carp, masgouf, tamarind, tigris

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