Stuffed Camel: Rare and Exotic Royal Treat

Stuffed CamelWhen you first hear the words “stuffed camel”, you probably think people are talking about a stuffed toy. Actually, “stuffed camel” is the name of a Middle Eastern dish, one that is truly exotic and difficult to come by. It is probably one of the most challenging dishes to cook, especially since it literally requires a whole camel to be stuffed. Yes, only the most privileged guests are honored with this truly exotic dish.

Only For Special Occasions and Special People

Stuffed camel is not a food item you will encounter every day. It is a traditional Bedouin dish, and it is customarily served only during special occasions. This is prepared for weddings or for special parties, particularly when the guest list includes a sheik or some other important figure. Today, however, the dish is sometimes available in restaurants and Bedouin camp exhibits in culturally open places like Dubai.

A Dish with Magnitude

Erika Grant wrote about stuffed camel in Foodbeast, a food blog that provides down-to-earth insight on various dishes. InThe Largest Meal in the World is a Whole Camel Stuffed with a Lamb Stuffed with Chicken, AKA Foodception” Grant gives a humorous description of this dish saying that eating it entitles a person to the label “hardcore eater”.

She says “If you truly want to earn the title, that camel better be stuffed with a lamb. And that lamb better be stuffed with some chickens. And those chickens absolutely must be stuffed with fish, or maybe a few dozen eggs if you’re feeling creative. Basically, you don’t come close to being a hardcore eater unless you’re a Bedouin Sheikh — because then fish within chickens within lamb within an entire freaking camel would just be your default party dish…”

This gives the reader a very clear idea of what the dish, stuffed camel, really is. The Guinness Book of Records has called stuffed camel “the largest item on any menu in the world” and no one will disagree. Cooking the camel is in itself a challenge; few places in the world have pots large enough to contain a whole camel.

Supersize Cooking

Grant goes on to describe the effort and resources needed to prepare stuffed camel. She says, “Everyone who thinks that the Western world has the monopoly on supersizing food has to admit that even the calorie-packed 7×7 Steakburger is a blip on this massive meal’s radar. The traditional Bedouin dish is prepared for wedding feasts and special parties, and the cooking instructions are very strict about making sure you boil the camel for the correct length of time — probably in a small jacuzzi or some kind of natural hot spring, since we’re pretty sure they don’t sell camel-sized pots at Ikea…
Cooking stuffed turkey requires more skill and perseverance than any other culinary invention in the world. First of all, heat and the timing are of the utmost importance. It is rather difficult to ascertain when a whole camel has been thoroughly cooked; this challenge increases as you take a look at the lamb inside the camel, plus the chickens inside the lamb, and the fish and eggs inside the chickens, and the rice at every level of the stuffing.

The ingredients of the dish include a whole medium-sized camel with its entrails removed. Once you get the “star of the show” ready, you move on to a whole large lamb, 20 medium-sized chickens, five dozen eggs, 12 kilograms rice, two kilograms each of pine nuts and almonds, one kilogram of pistachios, 110 gallons of water, and two pounds of pepper.

You begin your preparations by cleaning the camel and the rest of the meat ingredients, taking care to keep each one intact. You boil all the meats (still keeping the pieces intact) and the eggs while boiling the rice. You peel the boiled eggs, fry the nuts and mix them with the rice.

Once everything has been boiled, you begin the stuffing process. The eggs and the rice go into the chickens; the chickens go into the lamb with some rice, and finally the lamb goes into the camel with more rice. The whole stuffed camel is then broiled until brown over a large charcoal pit for about 15 hours. It is then garnished with nuts and rice and served whole, ready to feed 80 to 100 guests!

Probably the most interesting part of cooking this dish is the social part of its preparation. You need people to help you clean the camel, the lamb and the chickens. You also need help to hoist the stuffed (and boiled) animal into a pot. Then, because generic medications for treating people need to take turns keeping watch over the broiling camel, even at this stage, more than just a couple of assistants will be involved.

Cooking this dish is indeed a grand production but given the significance of the occasions where it is served, every step of the way contributes to building community ties. Perhaps, when you eat this dish, you need to look beyond the camel.

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