Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Iraqi Food

On the occasion of Eid Al-Adha I decided to write this post about Iraqi food. It is not about what families are cooking during Eid, but this post is an illustration of the different food and menus Iraqis are famous with.

Wish all Eid Mubarak and may all wishes come true, most importantly health, happiness and peace.

Iraqi food is so strongly influenced by its neighboring countries, Turkey and Iran, in addition to a limited influence by Indian food – thanks to British occupation in the early 20'th Century. In spite of that, Iraqis has adopted these “foreign cuisines” to their taste, as a result, Iraqi kitchen gained some sort of uniqueness.

I start with one of the most famous Iraqi dishes, Masgouf. It is a whole-skewered fish barbecued on an outdoor grill. It is known mainly by Baghdadis in Abu Nuas street, where restaurants and cafe’s stretching along the bench of river Tigris.

By the way, most of these restaurants used to open after sunset time. You see the workers prepare everything, from cleaning tables, washing the marbled floor with a water hose in one hand and a broom or a sweeper with the other. Slowly the sun goes down and the night is lit with the stars, with the colored bulbs and neon lights of these restaurants. Gradually the music of Um Kalthoum and other classic Arabic music harmonizes the atmosphere, nothing but to make this night, like any other night, something not to forget for the guest.

Did I mention that Araq and Beer is part of this?




Some people’s passion for Masgouf prompted them to try this at home, as in the below picture.


P.S. I like his Pyjama.

Ok, lets move on…

The second in this list is Lahm b ’ajeena … The olive on top as shown in the picture below is optional, of course.


With some little modification to the recipe, the way it is made in different middle eastern countries, the name also follow suits. In Syria, its called “Safiha”, in Holland it became known as “turkse Pizza”, in other countries its known as ”Lamejun” , or Armenian Pizza. However, in Iraq its called Lahm b’ ajeena, literally means meat on bread.

The way Lahm b’ ajeena is made by making baked circles of dough topped with cooked tiny-chopped meat and onion.


Many Iraqi families, including mine used to consider Lahm b ‘ajeena as an appetizer. The view of the pile of steaming baked pastries on a plate, along the tea pot and cups, all put on a big tray carried by my beloved aunt, who happens to be the best in my opinion who make Lahm b ‘ajeena was one of my all tune favorite experiences ever.


By the way, Lahm b ‘ajeena is not by any means can be compared to pizza. It is like saying that orange and mandarin are the same.


This afternoon I was invited for Dolma, and was so delicious. A lot of people know and realize that Dolma dish came originally from the Ottoman empire times, which like anything imported to a culture it has been adapted to the way the people of that culture make their food. That’s why Dolma in Iraq is not the same Dolma in Syria or Turkey – read somewhere that Dolma is also known in Lybia!

Dolma is made of stuffed vegetables with meat and served warm. The vegetables used varies, such as tomatoes, green or red pepper, or aborigine, or with the use of Onion, which is one of my favorites and one of the most used for dolma in addition to the wide use of grape leafs.



Next… its Kleecha!

I found astonishing watching the energy when our mothers, sisters or aunts indulging themselves in a a consistent task of making Kleecha, especially a couple of days before the Eid?

There are two types of Kleecha I know of which used to be baked back then when I was in Iraq: one stuffed with dates, another is stuffed with sugar and walnut.


I have never ever seen anyone have been served Kleeche being satisfied with one piece only. Two and more is the name of the game. In addition, Kleeche won’t be complete or considered tasty, in my opinion, until it is served with hot tea, not coffee or anything else. Don’t you agree?


OK, lets turn to something else...

I still did not figure out why it is called “Kubbat Hamidh”, maybe because of Citric put with the soup? Who cares, it is just another delicious Iraqi meal.


As the picture above shows, it is a kind of soup, with rounded meat balls, mixed with cooked vegetables and other stuff, such as grain, onion…etc

There are families/ restaurants who make Kubbat Hamidh differently as in the picture below.


Lets get back to sweets, and the one I am talking about is a real dessert, it is Zarda. I am not referring to the sexy Greek power princess from Marvel comics. The ingredients are rice, almonds, oil, sugar, some add raisins, saffron and food coloring to the recipe too.

Zarda has never been one of my favorites, but many families adore it because of the combination and taste of it.


P.S. Its not my handwriting on the picture above

This means that my name is not Abbas

By the way, anyone feel like Tikka?


Focus on the grilled tomatoes…

Ask any former soldier in Iraq about them: “Bagilla Bil Dihin”, “Shalgam”, and “Lebleby” . All of these are linked to “remote food serving”. I made up this name. I am referring to hucksters or Peddlers (if this is the right term for people pushing carts and selling food and drinks in public places such as public garages and markets. The picture below is an example on how these carts look like.


Speaking of public places and peddlers, they also used to serve desserts, such as “Datly” – see picture below.


Bureg, not Chris de Bureg, is one an extremely oily food. It is is a type of baked or fried filled pastry. There are some families who prefer to make Bureg stuffed with vegetables, and other families find the most common, stuffed with meat more tasty… anyone noticed how Iraqis favor meat in most of their dishes?

bureg n1589494927_30085042_1213216

Ask any Iraqi “what is Yabsa w Timmen”? The answer will be imminent, with a “of course, are you kidding?" It is nothing but white beans in tomato soup and chopped meat. It is one of the most famous and considered by many as the most bombastic meal in Iraqi Kitchen.

After having Yabsa w Timmen, the best way to digest the food is to have an afternoon nap, otherwise the situation will be critical. I think Semolina soup is the only closest thing to the gravity Yabsa w Timmen can generate.


How many of you would be craving for Tishreeb? In other countries they are called Chickpea Casserole or Tishreeb Hummus. There are two types of Tishreeb known in Iraq: Tishreeb Laham, which made of a lot of very well cooked onion, saffron, chick-pea, what else? ah, big chops of lamb meat with bones, and beneath this whole chaotically-organized-food-making infrastructure we have small pieces of bread soaked in lamb soup.


The second type of Tishreeb is “Tishreeb Dijaj”, which includes the same bombastic ingredients but substitute lamb meat with chicken.

I know one way to eat this thing: pull up your shirt arms – its going to be a mess, believe me, dive in your fingers (all of them) into the soup-soaked-bread plate, and cut a piece with your fingers nails and tip of your fingers on that thin bread. some of them would go for a wild round-like-move with the fingers and with the bread plug in a little from everything, and hop it quickly into the final destination - your mouth and stomach. For those not familiar with the rituals of eating Tishreeb, don’t wait too long or try to mud down that oily piece of bread… if you do that you won’t be able to catch up with the rest.

Anyway, that’s called: eating with bare hands, if no one noticed.

Anyone dare to say eeeeuwwwww or baahhh????

Speaking of Iraqi bread, that’s how people in villages and public places and even bakeries not long time ago bread was made


I know that Pizza is Italian, but I want here to tell about the first time I went to a restaurant specialized in serving Pizza. That small restaurant was located at Antar roundabout in Baghdad. That was in the late 1980’s, if I remember correctly. It consisted of just four or five small tables by the window where I used to watch the gradually building up of number of young men during noon, because girls from Al Hareery secondary school for girls has just ended their school day. The pizza I ordered was exactly the same as in the picture below.


OK, that's enough for today

I hope that this post won’t cause some stomachache or move someone’s appetite, especially for those on diet.


Khalid from said...


Happy Eid Al Adha to you and your family and also thank you for this fantastic post about our food.



MixMax said...

Happy Eid, dear brother Khalid, may these blessed days bring you forever health, happiness and long living.

I am glad you liked this post. In fact it was much longer post than the end result, but I thought of truncating a little :)

سحاب said...

هذه الاكلات كلها محرومين منها أخوانا العراقيين في الخارج
واذا اكلوها هناك فطعمها يكون مختلف عن طعمها الحقيقي في العراق وعلى ضفاف دجلة وبين الاهل والاحبة

selahV said...

Thank you for the information about Iraqi food. I would like the recipes of those pastries with walnuts and dates. actually, I'd love to have the recipes for most of what you wrote about. selahV

Naranj said...

You made me so hungry!

Justin Thomas said...

People in Mosul are known for Kubbah Hamidh. So delicious.