Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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IRAQ: Baghdad's fishy business

January 29, 2008 |  9:01 am


The best meal in Iraq is Mahzgouf fish. Many Iraqi families gather after Friday prayers in the mosques to feast on the succulent, river bottom feeder.

But because of the chaotic security situation, people frown upon mahzgouf that is caught from the Tigris River. People whisper that those fish have fed on human flesh. Now, a discerning customer will opt for a fish bred in a hatchery.

People will pick out a live fish from a restaurant or a street vendor’s water-filled wheel barrow. The mahzgouf is promptly clubbed and then roasted on its side and cooked over a wood fire. The disc-shaped fish will then be served with a flat bread, called khubz. Everyone digs in with clean hands and puts fingerfuls of the oily fish in their mouth.

— Caesar Ahmed in Baghdad

Photo: A roadside vendor prepares the popular mahzgouf fish to roast. Credit: Saad Khalaf, Los Angeles Times