If you're wondering what camel tastes like, you can travel to Dubai to taste it! We flew in to Dubai to try the best food and restaurants and meet up with our friend Peyman Al Awadhi. He brought us around to taste the best food and of course, eat a camel!
Our Friend Peyman
We met up with passionate Emirati ambassador Peyman Al Awadhi. Hanging out with him (left) and his brother Mohammed (right) was a ton of fun and gave us a deeper look into the culture of the UAE. His insights into the food and culture of the region made the trip unforgettable.
Peyman himself is a well known producer who has founded multiple media companies, consultancies, and has his own restaurant in Dubai with his brother; Wild Peeta, a local restaurant serving delicious gourmet pita sandwiches! Their entire menu is inspired by the food they have encountered on their global travels.
Eating Whole Camel in Dubai
When Peyman and I first discussed creating something together in Dubai, we had a few ideas in mind. I had thought of doing an entire street food tour of Dubai, but wanted something more, something more traditional and unique. I wrote Peyman asking if it’s still possible to eat camel in Dubai. He knew that it was possible but needed to work out the details. After a week of phone calls, Peyman found a place for us to eat and watch the preparation of the entire camel in Dubai, at Zaman Awal restaurant in Al Boom Village.
When we first walked up to the restaurant and met the chefs, chef Aziz and chef Abubaker, both of whom were originally from Kerala, India, we could feel an excitement in their eyes that they were going to prepare for us an ultra rare Emirati meal. They had prepped the entire camel the night beforehand, marinating it in their local Emirati masala, a mixture of spices bought directly from the spice market!
To be honest, what we saw when we walked in shocked me at first. I’m not used to seeing whole camels covered in masala. Nonetheless, I was excited because this was an entire masala camel that we were about to eat in the traditional Emirati way. I was a little sensitive though because this was a whole camel, and even after 4 years of eating street food around the world, I have not yet completely grown out of the North American sensitivity of being unused to seeing your meat in one piece as opposed to wrapped up perfectly in styrofoam packages.
Regardless, this was an amazing experience that is extremely rare nowadays in Dubai, and we were super lucky to be hosted by Zaman Awal restaurant and for Peyman’s help in finding this camel for us to eat.
Peyman mentioned that the camel was used by bedouin tribespeople for survival since the dawn of civilization. The skin, meat, and milk were all used for survival. Today, the best way to experience it was to taste it in a restaurant. So we did. We had a blast watching the rubbing of the masala and chatting with the chefs about the cooking process. It was steamed! The camel itself was raised at the nearby desert for this specific purpose. Restaurants will order it for extremely special events or exclusive guests.
The camel was rubbed down in the ultra flavourful tomato and chili masala and put into a huge pot. It was surprising that it all fit inside. After that, a little water was put in the bottom and the camel was steamed over the stove for 6 hours. When it was done, the shape of the camel was gone and all that was left was the huge bones and a pile of meat to scoop out.
It was plated on a bed of something similar to Al Machboos rice. The yellow rice was loaded with saffron and ghee and sprinkled with a huge bowl of the local stuffing made from split peas, raisins, and cashews. After it was all plated, you couldn’t see the shape of the camel anymore. It was a colourful and beautiful sight to see! One of the rarest foods in Dubai!
It was carried outside by the whole restaurant, with 5 people carrying the platter at a time. The camel was brought to a nice spot overlooking the water.
Before we tried the first bite of camel flesh, Peyman taught me how to eat it in the local way. First, he found a good piece and placed it in front of me, as is customary for the host to do. He showed us to scoop the rice with your hand and then place the meat on top of the rice in your hand and squeeze it together into a lump and push it into your mouth with your thumb. Eating it this way made the whole experience even better!
The camel meat itself tasted very similar to lamb. It was very tender and fatty. Eating the camel hump was another thing we had to try. This was the most flavourful and aromatic thing I’ve probably ever tasted. There was so much flavour in the fat! It was definitely extremely heavy making one bite enough for the whole evening, but a must try regardless. It tasted like the lamb fat except upgraded flavour level!
The whole evening went according to tradition. As the guests, we ate first. Then, the hosts ate next. The entire kitchen staff of 20 feasted on the camel. Even they couldn’t finish it. After this Peyman arranged for a charity to come pick it up and give the rest to people in need!
It truly was an amazing experience eating an entire camel in Dubai! We will never forget this!
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I would love to know your thoughts on this camel experience! Please leave me a comment below!