Unbeatable “Buddy’s” Fish Kebabs

The fish kebabs are covered with onion and tomatoes. The smell wafts across the lake. The food in this part of the world is unbeatable.

Apart from its gorgeous landscape, trees and natural features, Zarivar Lake (3km west of Marivan, Kurdistan) boasts other special characteristics, too – all of these combine to make the lake a unique destination.

All around the lake, there are 24 small kiosks spreading a wonderful smell into the air. They are famous for a special fish kebab recipe that, as they claim, is unique.

Rafigh (meaning Buddy) is one of these kiosk owners at the lake. He drops a fresh grass carp onto the chopping board and slices it into two with the tip of his knife.

He puts a couple more on the board, explaining, “Our local fish are grass carp, common carp and silver carp.”

He positions the fish above the red, hot coals and turns the net every few seconds. A few minutes later, he separates the loose skin of the fish with a stick.

When the fish as red as the coals, he out takes a pot and spreads its contents all over the fish, “When the fish has cooked a bit, we add onion juice on both sides, then score the flesh with a stick so the juice gets into it.”

Rafigh takes the fish off the coals again and adds more things: Hawraman local sumac, oil and lemon juice. Then covers the top with onion and tomato and puts it back on the coals again.

“This type of kebab is exclusive to Zarivar Lake – nowhere else in the world can you find fish kebabs with these ingredients, and cooked in this way. It takes half an hour for the fish to be ready. All this time, we keep scratching the flesh so the ingredients get into the centre.”

He then talks about the fishing season, “There are only 36 fishermen allowed to fish in the lake, who have permission from the Iran Environmental Organization, which is limited to only six months: autumn and winter.”

The fish is now as red as the coals, and Rafigh takes it off and puts it on a tray, “Each of the lake’s fish is enough for at least two people. Some people order one for four, and some Iraqis have such great appetites that they order one fish per person!”

Rafigh has been making fish kebab in this way at Zarivar Lake for 25 years.