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Masgouf


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Masgouf is an Iraqi dish through and through.

 

Masgouf is a butterflied Carp impaled on vertical hooks over an open wood fire.

 

I usually eat fish from the sea and dislike soft water fish except the Iraqi Masgouf.

 

It is a Carp (fresh) which gets a butterfly cut and spread with a mix of spices. The spices are varied and depends on the area and the person preparing the fish. The spicing is very light to almost negligeable as the fish is served with side sauces of either Tamarind based or Tomatoes based with a vaying degree of heat.

 

Masgouf is kind of unique in the cooking as it is impaled on a hook or spit and the strange part which is against all rules of fish cooking, it is not the skin which faces the fire but the inside meat. You have to note that Carp is a fatty typle of fish a la Salmon and the fire burns all the fat out which drips down and leaves the beautiful taste of the fish. When ready, the fish is laid on the ambers skin side down to char it quickly before serving.

 

Our way of eating Masgouf is with the fingers and no bread.  We squeeze on the fish cut Nanaerj which is in a similar family of Seville Oranges. These Nanerj are sweet to taste and do not have the Lemons or Oranges sourness. They marry beautifully with the fish,

 

In the pictures, you will see our hands squeezing the cut Nanerj on the fish and you will see the typical Iraqi bread.

You will also see two dishes which do not belong there and are not part of the Masgouf. These tomatoe based dishes are Bamieh which is Okra and Fassoulieh which is white beans. I simply like these two dishes too much and the restaurant has them prepared for me.

 

The Masgouf comes also with pickles which makes use of green and dried Coriander giving the pickles a very unique taste and this type of pickles is served in both Iraq and North Syria. One of the other pickles specialties is Pickled Mangoes which have nothing whatsoever to do with Chutney. It is an entirely different prep with lot of sourness and heat. We eat it mixed with chopped fresh tomatoes giving us the elusive Umami.

 

Enjoy the pic and make sure to Google Masgouf to learn more about the dish.

 

Do you know Masgouf? Have you ever tried it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Nicolai (log)
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That looks delicious, Nicolai. I'd never heard of masgouf before. Your photos and description make me want to try it. That looks like quite the convivial feast!

I'm not sure of how the fish is presented at the table. Is it skin side down? Is the flesh heavily crusted from contact with the embers?

Thanks for posting.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Hello Smithy

 

Yes, the fish is served skin side down and you do not eat the skin.

 

The flesh does not come in contact with the embers, only the skin is laid on the embers to char before serving.

 

It is a bony fish and this is another reason to scoop it directly with the fingers (or a fork and spoon if you have to) from the serving plate and eat it while being careful about the fish bones.

 

But it is worth it and is a whole new dimension both in fish and the whole ceremonial....fingers, wood fire, pickles et all.

 

It is an experience not to be missed.

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To those unclear - the fish is split from the back, all the way down to and including the head. It's sort of like how the Japanese butterfly fish, but again, the head is split open too. It's a pretty oil fish, so the flesh, which faces the fire, gets slowly browned from the flame.

 

Traditionally, it was riverside food, the specialty of restaurants lining the Tigris in Baghdad, and according to Nawal Nasrallah, in summer when the water level was low, various "masgouferies" would spring up on the islands exposed by the low water.

 

BTW what dialect is nanerj? In Baghdadi Arabic it's naranj ( نارنج ) or sometimes even narangi/lalangi

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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Nanerj is the name used in Lebanon - Syria - Jordan - Palestine

 

Narenj is used in Iraq - Kuwait...etc

 

Nareng with a hard "g" is used in Egypt - Sudan...etc

 

Nareng in Persian seems to be the original word.

 

Naranja is the name for Oranges in Spain.

 

Narenj became spelled as Orange by the French as a derivative from Une Orange spelled as N'orange and ended up as Orange.

 

The Arabs introduced Oranges to Spain in the 8th century.....introduced to the Arabs by the Persian only for this variety as the sour variety is the Jaffa and Levant variety....The origin of the origin seems to be China!

 

My explanation is based on the fact that we have several variant of Oranges in the Levant including both Burtucal Helou and Burtucal Hamod (Bitter/Tangy Orange and Sweet Orange) The Burtucal Hamod is the Jaffa oranges variety with the sourness also known as Shamouti oranges, add to that you have the Burtucal Mawardi also called Maghrabi which is Blood Orange and finally Oranges are a hybrid cytrus fruit.

 

To cut a along story short, Nareng is the original Persian name.

 

I think I will have now a nice fresh Orange juice.

 

 

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Correction to my earlier post, lalangi in Iraqi is a mandarin/tangerine, etc (narangi in Persian). Bitter/seville orange is always naranj, in both Iraqi Arabic and Persian (Persian Arabicized narang into naranj, much as Pars became Fars).

 

Etymologies aside, in addition to the required accompaniment to masgouf, naranj also makes a GREAT salad dressing ingredient instead of vinegar or lemon juice. 

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Guess we know where Spanish took naranja from.

 

That food looks incredible. Interesting preparation technique for the fish.

 

Yup, and where the English and French got orange!

 

It's one of the best dishes in the universe, but I'm kind of biased. It sucks that it's a pain in the ass to make and no restos here will make it. I suppose it COULD be done in a kettle grill, building a fire on one side and propping the fish up on the other - but the point is it's to be indirectly heated by FIRE, not grilled over coals. It's also not easy to get a fish butterflied in the right way, as it's a method never done here and unfamiliar to fishmongers, many of whom here at least don't speak fantastic English.

 

If anyone finds themselves in London, there are a few Iraqi restaurants that specialize in Masgouf, one in Knightsbridge, called simply Masgouf, and another off Edgware Road (Connaught Street?) called Le Chef Masgouf, or something. The type of fish they use is different but otherwise it's pretty legit. I'm sure there must be places in Dearborn that do it too. Anywhere there are a lot of Iraqis (Dubai, Amman...)

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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I live in a suburb that has a very large Chaldean community ( and a very good Chaldean restaurant). They make "masgoof", I need to try it soon! BTW, they make amazing tea, too :smile:  :smile:  :smile:

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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1- The Mango pickles is called Amba and is an Iraqi specialty which might not be to the taste of everybody as it is hot, spicy and tangy.

We eat it with cut tomatoes which gives the pickles another dimension.

 

 

 

 

 

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2- Masgoof wanabe restaurants in London or wherever are only Masgoof by name. The restaurant has to have

a- Carps

b- An open vertical wood fire pit.

The carp in my pictures is from Iraq and the one in the other thread is from Iran.

 

If the restaurant does not post the pictures of the fish and of the vertical fire pit then it is not the genuine Masgoof and the fish is grilled on the usual amber fire and most of the time they use Sea Bass.

The Masgoof fire is real wood and not charcoal and the fish has to be butterflied from head to tail and served whole!

 

Restaurants in Europe and the States need a special license to operate live wood fires indoor!

 

No pictures = No Masgouf

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No pictures = No Masgouf

 

Words to live by, I'm sure.

 

After this thread, I looked up Iraqi restaurants in Houston. We have one apparently (and it has Masgouf on the menu... no picture of the fire though hmm) but is supposedly not very good, if you give Yelp much credibility, which I don't. I may have to venture out that way to try it for myself.

 

I've had mango pickles once or twice in my lifetime, though in southeast Asian cooking, so probably different. Delicious.

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  • 5 years later...

 

This is the best I could do, and my first attempt at Masgouf, and it was fantastic! I caught a small carp (about 5lbs), stunned it and immediately bled it by cutting the gills and near the tail (this is a crucial step), then chilled it on ice. Without scaling it I split it down the backbone and removed the innards. After a quick wash, I salted the cavity with fine sea salt and cooked it in front of the fire about a foot away. Just before serving I put the fish scale side down on the fire. It was delicious!

 

 

MasgoufRoasting.thumb.png.d0cb22a3f57f5ae019f5d8809e7219f2.png

 

 

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On 2/21/2015 at 4:15 AM, Nicolai said:

Masgouf is kind of unique in the cooking as it is impaled on a hook or spit

 

Arbroath smokies are butterflied haddock cooked/hot smoked hanging in exactly the same way and I've seen carp being cooked this way in China, too. Not unique.

 

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They are also often eaten by hand.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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13 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Arbroath smokies are butterflied haddock cooked/hot smoked hanging in exactly the same way and I've seen carp being cooked this way in China, too. Not unique.

 

 

Is the kill and bleed and back splice and position to fire the same?  Anywho - there is no total  "new" as they say  

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43 minutes ago, heidih said:

Is the kill and bleed and back splice and position to fire the same?  Anywho - there is no total  "new" as they say  

 

I have some finnan haddie in the freezer that is almost an antique*.  One of my fondest memories of my late mother is her creamed finnan haddie over English muffins.  She even made creamed dried beef taste good.  Her finnan haddie was something special.  Somehow thoughts of marmalade go through my mind.

 

 

*unlike the canned sardines in my refrigerator that probably are.  At least I bought them in the 1970's.

 

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13 minutes ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

I have some finnan haddie in the freezer that is almost an antique*.  One of my fondest memories of my late mother is her creamed finnan haddie over English muffins.  She even made creamed dried beef taste good.  Her finnan haddie was something special.  Somehow thoughts of marmalade go through my mind.

 

 

Much as I like finnan haddie, they are very different from Arbroath smokies. The are cold smoked and require cooking, unlike the smokies which you can eat straight from the smokehouse.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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  • 2 months later...
On 12/13/2020 at 1:57 AM, Violin_guy said:

 

This is the best I could do, and my first attempt at Masgouf, and it was fantastic! I caught a small carp (about 5lbs), stunned it and immediately bled it by cutting the gills and near the tail (this is a crucial step), then chilled it on ice. Without scaling it I split it down the backbone and removed the innards. After a quick wash, I salted the cavity with fine sea salt and cooked it in front of the fire about a foot away. Just before serving I put the fish scale side down on the fire. It was delicious!

 

 

MasgoufRoasting.thumb.png.d0cb22a3f57f5ae019f5d8809e7219f2.png

 

 

Ohhhh. So glad you enjoyed your Masgouf.

 

I raise a glass to you.

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