Camel burgers: fast food for the Gulf?

Camels have always been integral to survival in the inhospitable deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Just over a half a century ago, before the arrival of modern sports utility vehicles, bedouin relied on camels for transportation and companionship in the region’s harsh climate.

These days, camels are what’s for dinner.

Or at least they will be, if one Emirati restauranteur gets his way.

Khalid Al Halyan, owner of the Dubai restaurant Local House, plans on launching a new chain of Arabian-style fast food restaurants that primarily serve hamburgers made of ground camel meat.

“Arabs have always eaten this meat,” says Al Halyan, a self-described hobbyist cook. “Camel is halal, healthy, so we’re thinking ‘why not?’”

Al Halyan certainly has enough experience with the meat.

In 2010, Local House was one of the first restaurants in United Arab Emirates to offer camel meat burgers. Today, Al Halyan’s grilled ‘house burger’ (camel meat cheeseburger topped with egg and homemade tomato salsa) and ‘special burger’ (something like a camel-meat cheesesteak on a kaiser bun) are among the eatery’s top-sellers.

The restaurant’s flagship sandwich is a quarter-pound camel burger topped lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and perfectly melted white cheddar cheese.

Aside from the novelty of eating a sandwich made from camel meat, this is one of the best cheeseburgers in the UAE. Each bite is juicy and full of flavor. The meat is lean and, perhaps surprisingly, not tough or too chewy. Nor does it taste ‘gamey’; Local House’s camel burger actually tastes similar to a typical beef burger.

The secret is in the marinade and spices used to season the meat, but Al Halyan has no intention of sharing the recipe.

imageHe does, however, plan to expand his offerings to include spicier options. Right now, the cooks are limited to tossing some dried chili flakes on the patty if you want it with a kick.

“I’m hiring new chef to come up with a new recipe,” says Al Halyand. “One for sweet, salty, chili, and Arabic-flavored burgers.”

Al Halyan does not consider his cuisine to be ‘Emirati’ but thinks the menu will appeal to locals and foreigners alike. He hopes to launch his new restaurant chain – also called Local House – in the UAE later this year. Eventually, he wants to go global with the brand. The purported health properties of camel meat give him confidence that the venture will be a success.

“Camel meat has nearly zero cholesterol,” says Al Halyan. “It is leaner, and therefore much healthier.”


Local House: see the menu
Address: Local House Restaurant, House No. 51, Al Bastakiya, Near Al Mussallah Roundabout, Opposite Al Mussallah Post Office, Bur Dubai
Telephone: +971 4 386 2040
Price: $
Camels Fire: (nothing spicy on menu)

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