I first fell for the intricately seasoned dishes of Iraq more than a decade ago during my deployment there. I haven't been back since. So a few years ago in Dubai, a city I visit often, I was thrilled to find the Iraqi-run restaurant Al Bayt Al Baghdadi, which serves an excellent masgouf, grilled river fish, for lunch. On a recent trip, when I could make it to the restaurant only in the early morning, I asked Adil, the manager, for a breakfast recommendation. He just smiled, motioning for me to sit. Shortly, flatbread and a plate arrived: a sauté of rich ground lamb and eggs with onions, tomatoes, and parsley, seasoned to the hilt with bahar asfar, yellow curry powder. I devoured the robust scramble, and when only a tingle of heat remained on my tongue, I went to ask Adil what it was called, but he was gone. Back home, I combed through cookbooks and learned that makhlama lahm, meat omelette, first appeared in a tenth-century Mesopotamian cookbook, Kitab al-Tabikh. It suggested crowning the mixture with a pair of soft-baked eggs, which I now do on mornings when I crave a taste of the past.
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