Iraqi cuisine

Iraqi cuisine or Mesopotamian cuisine has a long history going back some 10,000 years – to the Sumerians, Babylonians, ancient Persians, Mesopotamian Arabs. Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world. Ancient Iraq, or Mesopotamia, was home to a sophisticated and advanced civilization, in all fields of knowledge, including the culinary arts. However, it was in the Islamic Golden Age when Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate that the Iraqi kitchen reached its zenith. Today, the cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the culinary traditions of neighbouring Iran and the Syria region area. Meals begin with salads -- known as Mezza; some dishes include Kebab, Bamieh, Falafel, Kubbah/Kibbeh, Masgûf, Maqluba. Stuffed vegetable dishes such as Dolma and Mahshi are popular. Contemporary Iraq reflects the same natural division as ancient Mesopotamia, which consisted of Assyria in the arid northern uplands and Babylonia in the southern alluvial plain.

Al-Jazira grows wheat and crops requiring winter chill such as apples and stone fruits. Al-Irāq grows rice and barley, citrus fruits, is responsible for Iraq's position as the world's largest producer of dates. Pork consumption is forbidden to Muslims in accordance with Sharia, the Islamic law. Archaeologists have found evidence from excavations at Jarmo in northeastern Iraq, that pistachio nuts were a common food as early as 6750 BC. Among the ancient texts discovered in Iraq is a Sumerian-Akkadian bilingual dictionary, recorded in cuneiform script on 24 stone tablets about 1900 BC, it lists terms in the two ancient Iraqi languages for over 800 different items of drink. Included are 20 different kinds of cheese, over 100 varieties of soup and 300 types of bread – each with different ingredients, shape or size. One of three excavated cuneiform clay tablets written in 1700 BC in Babylon, 50 miles south of present-day Baghdad, deals with 24 recipes for stew cooked with meat and vegetables and seasoned with leeks, onion and spices and herbs like cassia, coriander and dill.

Stew has remained a mainstay in the cuisine. Extant medieval Iraqi recipes and modern Iraqi cuisine attest to this; some characteristic ingredients of Iraqi cuisine include: Vegetables such as eggplant, turnips, shallot, onion, cress, cabbage, spinach, leeks, garlic and chilli. Cereals such as rice, bulghur wheat and barley. Pulses and legumes such as lentils, green beans, green grams, cannellini. Fruits such as olives, raisins, plums, grapes, pomegranate, cherries and citrus fruits. Cheeses such as baladi and halloumi. Herbs and spices such as cinnamon, coriander, cumin, mint, thyme, dried lime, dill, baharat, sumac and za'atar. Nuts and seeds such as sesame, almonds, walnuts and pine nuts. Other Iraqi culinary essentials include olive oil, sesame oil, vermicelli, honey, date syrup and rose water. Lamb is the favorite meat, but chicken, pork and fish are eaten. Most dishes are served with rice – timman anbar, a yellowish aromatic, long-grain rice grown in the provinces of Anbar and Qadisiyyah. Bulghur wheat is used in many dishes, having been a staple in the country since the days of the ancient Assyrians.

Flatbread is a staple, served, with a variety of dips, cheeses and jams, at every meal. Mezza is a selection of appetizers or small dishes served with beverage, like anise-flavored liqueurs such as arak, raki or different wines, similar to the tapas of Spain or finger food. Baytinijan maqli, a dish served cold, consisting of fried aubergine with tahini sauce, lettuce and tomatoes, garnished with sumac and served on pita bread or sliced bread grilled or toasted. Variations include a garlic lemon vinaigrette. Fattoush, a salad made from fried pieces of pita bread. Tabbouleh, a salad dish used as part of a mezze, its primary ingredients are finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato and other herbs with lemon juice, olive oil and various seasonings including black pepper and sometimes cinnamon and allspice. Turshi, pickled vegetables in the cuisine of many Balkan and Middle East countries, it is a traditional appetizer, meze for rakı, ouzo and rakia. Arab salad Baba ghanoush, a dish of baked aubergine mixed with various seasonings.

Hummus, a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Muhammara, a hot pepper dip from Aleppo, Syria. Tzatziki, an appetizer of Ottoman cuisine origin used as a sauce for souvlaki and gyros. Tzatziki is made of strained yogurt with cucumbers, salt olive oil, dill, sometimes lemon juice and parsley, or mint added; the c

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