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How to make Iraqi grilled fish | Dine & Discover

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Masgouf is traditionally made with a simple lemon and tamarind marinade and then grilled (MEE)

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Hello. I'm Dina Macki. Welcome to the seventh episode of Dine & Discover.

In the coming weeks I'll be taking you through a series of recipes famed across the MENA region that you can easily recreate in your own homes. 

This week's recipe takes us to Iraq, specifically along the Tigris river. 

I've taken inspiration from a famous Iraqi dish known all across the Middle East called Masgouf. It's traditionally made with a butterflied carp simply marinated with lemon and tamarind and then grilled over an open fire pit.

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In my take I've added a few more ingredients to make a flavoursome marinade to cover your fish.

Iraqi masgouf
Traditional masgouf is often considered the national dish of Iraq (MEE/Sebastian Castelier)

You can work with a fish of your choice but I recommend oily fish such as sea bass. This dish is perfect for a barbecue but you can always bake it in the oven or pop it under the grill.

Alongside this dish you can’t forget the all-time famous Iraqi sauce known as amba. Think sour mango with a kick to it. This pairs perfectly with the masgouf but also will store away in your fridge for any occasion.


Serves: 4-6 people

Preparation and cooking time: Preparation: 2 hours. Cooking: 45 minutes

1. Ingredients:


  • 1 medium onion
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp dried lime powder
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 6 fresh tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp tamarind paste
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 3 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1 large sea bream, butterflied

Amba Sauce

  • 1 fresh mango chopped into small cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Sumac
  • 1 tsp ground dried lime
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds 
  • 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • Salt 

2. Method:

Amba sauce

  1. Peel and chop your mango into small cubes. 
  2. In a saucepan combine your mango with olive oil, all your spices and a pinch of salt.
  3. Cook your mango down until it becomes a pulp, use a masher or hand blender to achieve the consistency you desire. 
  4. Once cooked down, set aside and leave to cool before serving
Mango sauce


  1. Preheat the grill to the highest temperature or heat the oven to 180°C
  2. Add the oil, onions, garlic to a large pan and over a medium heat allow to sweat. Add in all your spices and mix it all in.
  3. Then add in tomatoes, tomato puree, parsley and tamarind and cook for 5-10 minutes until the mixture has broken down and thickens.
  4. Butterfly your fish and remove the spine.
  5. Place the fish, skin side down and rub the marinade all over. You can leave the fish to marinate for a few hours.
  6. Place under the grill or in the oven for roughly 10-12 minutes.
  7. Serve with your amba sauce, pickles, bread or vermicelli rice and salad.

Follow the Dine & Discover series on Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow Dina on her Instagram page @dinewithdina.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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