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Food

Forklore: One hump or two?

Can you eat camel? You bet your hump you can. Camels aren’t as important in the Near East as they were before airplanes and four-wheel drive vehicles, but there are still plenty of them there, and the final stop for many is a butcher shop specializing in camel meat.

You aren’t likely to see camel steak on a restaurant menu, though. Since it comes from working animals, not pampered feedlot livestock who were specifically raised for their meat, camel tends to be on the chewy side. And the sort of restaurant foreigners are likely to enter certainly wouldn’t take a chance on serving it to a bunch of squeamish tourists.

Yes, the hump is eaten. It’s mostly fat -- the camel stores energy in it (you didn’t really think it was a sort of canteen for storing water, did you?). There’s a good deal of gristle in it as well.

Here’s a typical medieval camel recipe (jazuriyya). Cut 4 pounds camel meat, 1 pound camel hump and 1 pound camel liver in julienne. Put the meat in a pot with with 1 cup water, 1 1/3 cups oil, the juice of 1 pound onions and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, loosely covered, until the water has evaporated and the meat starts to fry. Add the hump and fry together. Add 2 cups vinegar and cook until tender. Then throw in the liver with 1 cup onion puree and plenty of coriander, salt, pepper and caraway, and cook until done.

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