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Samad Iraqi Restaurant in Dubai Maskouf fish


The star of Samad Iraqi Restaurant menu is the true specialty dish of Iraq, maskouf (or masgouf). They have live carp from the Euphrates delivered to swim in the tiled pool that sits in the restaurant’s outside kitchen (in Iraq, the fish are caught in the Tigris and can reach upwards of 30 pounds). Make a point to ask your waiter or the manager if you can see the kitchen where the maskouf is cooked; the pool is only a few feet away from the fire pit, where the fish are split in half and grilled, vertically sandwiched between wooden sticks. The result is a fish like none other I’ve ever had. The flesh is incredibly light with a very buttery taste, the result of the fish’s own oils being charred by direct heat from the wood fire. The whole fish comes to the table split in half and is best eaten with your hands to avoid the many small bones. The deliciously tart pickled beets and freshly sliced onions and tomatoes sprinkled with paprika are great eaten in the same bite as the maskouf; the pickled beets balance out the buttery fish and bring out the spices and herbs sprinkled on the carp before it’s grilled.

For the same reason, my favorite drink to accompany the maskouf is freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with nana (mint). The lemon juice and mint are blended together so that the top of the glass carries more than an inch of frothy lemon foam. The drink’s pucker cuts through the oil of the hummus, baba ghanoush, and grilled dishes.

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