Iraqi Dishes: Why Iraqi Food Culture Has Been Around Forever

Gary Greer 3/29/2020
Arab Culture

When we talk about Iraqi dishes it’s hard to know where to begin. Iraqi cuisine, like its art and culture, is the sum of its varied and rich past. Indeed, the culinary history of Iraq reflects the palates of successive ancient civilizations. Some include Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, ancient Persians, and Mesopotamian Arabs. Yet, from its delicious bread and tasty stews to its sweet layered cakes and to grilled kebabs, Iraqi cuisine has retained much in the way of its ancient Mesopotamian roots that continues to be the culinary mainstay even in modern Iraq. So, without further ado, here is a list of Iraqi foods that have only grown more delicious throughout the ages.

1. Samoon

While hardly a “dish”, every meal has the delicious Iraqi bread known as samoon. It is baked like pizza in traditional stone ovens. It’s so delectable, in fact, people all over the Middle East enjoy it.

2. Biryani

The Iraqi version of this traditional dish includes a savory, saffron-based rice with chicken. Variations might include vermicelli, fried onions, and fried potato cubes; however, no matter the version of biryani, almonds and raisins are always over the top of the rice. Sometimes, you will find maraq on the side, a sour and spicy tomato sauce. Additionally, you can usually count on Iraq biryani being on the menu for occasions like Eid, local wedding parties, and other Iraq festivals.

3. Masgouf

Originating in the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, masgouf  has been around since Babylonian times and is now known as Iraq’s national dish. Masgouf is a carp split down the middle and slow-grilled sideways. This gives it a lovely smoky, flame-kissed flavor. Added to the dish is a generous amount of sumac, fresh pomegranate seeds, and lemon.

4. Margat Bamya

One of the most common staples found in any Iraqi household. This classic Iraqi okra stew is a mixture of okra and tender lamb or beef in a spiced tomato-based sauce.

5. Iraqi Kebab

If I say the word “kebab” in America, most likely you’ll think of skewers with alternating chunks of chicken or beef and vegetables, marinated and slow-grilled over an open flame. But say “kebab” in the Middle East, and Arabs will conjure up skewered logs of spicy ground beef or lamb (or a mixture of both) with a very tender texture and subtle barbecue taste after it’s slow-grilled over an open fire.

6. Tashreeb

Originally thought of as a “peasant’s dish”, tashreeb is now enjoyed by all Iraqis. The hearty dish starts at its base with a thick samoon over which chicken broth is poured, allowing time for the bread to soak it all in and then it’s topped with meat and vegetables. Tashreeb is surely a simple yet delectable meal.

7. Quzi

Whether you call it qoozi, quozi, ghozi, or khouzi, this is a whole roasted lamb stuffed with rice, vegetables, nuts and spices that is cooked on extremely low heat over a submerged or closed oven. charcoal gives this dish a nice, smoky flavor and the scented rice and vegetables contribute to its one of a kind taste.

8. Tepsi Baytinijan

Tepsi Baytinijan is another meal that is very popular throughout Iraq. However, each household has its own unique way of making it. This casserole-like dish is made up of appetizingly fried eggplants wrapped around small spiced meatballs baked in a delicious tomato-based sauce.

9. Dolma

Although you’ll find dolma made in a number of different ways across the Middle East, the Iraqi food dolma of this is really the most delicious, because Iraqis use boiled chard instead of the usual stuffed grape-leaf to wrap their finger-length stuffing of minced meat, rice, nuts, and spices, then cover it with lemon zest. So delicious, you won’t be able to eat just one.

10. Mann al Sama

Nothing finishes a meal quite like traditional Iraqi sweets. Probably one of the most well-known sweets is mann al sama or “manna from Heaven”. This gooey, sticky, chock full of nuts and oh so delicious nougat is just that – heavenly!

Well, there you have some of the most delicious Iraq delicacies that will sure delight just about anybody’s palate. Until next time, sahtayn!

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