World’s Largest Meal Is A Whole Roasted Camel: Think Turducken But Stuffed With Lambs, Chickens, And Fish

camel
The Arabic group, known as the Bedouin, practices the process of roasting whole camels — the world's largest meal — for community weddings. Creative Commons

If Thanksgiving already has you loosening your belt, you may want to avoid a Sheik wedding. The traditional dinner fare includes an entire roast camel, stuffed with lamb, chickens, fish, and sometimes eggs and rice.

Practiced by the nomadic Arabic group known as the Bedouin, the process of roasting an entire camel has become somewhat mythic. Various sources indicate that a recipe for the dish originally appeared in a home economics cookbook from 1983, entitled International Cuisine, which instructs the preparer to "skin, trim, and clean camel (once you get over the hump)" and to boil the camel, lamb, and chicken until tender. It unhelpfully omits how such boiling will occur, however.

Perhaps the most credible evidence that this meal was actually prepared — outside of just being listed in a recipe book — comes from Richard Sterling's The Fearless Diner, a globe-trotting exploration of the strangest foods around the world.

Sterling recalls encountering a chef in Bangkok, Thailand named Sven Krause, who told him the story of being asked to prepare the Bedouin delicacy.

"I was working in Saudi Arabia," Krause told Sterling. "There was a wedding of some sheik or other. And you won't believe what they wanted me to cook."

The account goes on to explain how Krause ended up stuffing six sheep into the camel, whole chickens into the sheep, and various fish into the chickens.

"He told me how it took 24 hours to cook," Sterling wrote, "and that he served it on a silver platter in the shape of a recumbent camel. He related how the tribesmen who were the sheik's guests then attacked it with their knives en masse, feasted with their bare hands, and ate the meat down to the ivory."

In 2007, another source confirmed the practice, this time with French chef Christian Falco in the tiny seaside town of Safi, Morocco. Falco spit-roasted a 1,200-lb camel for 15 hours.

"It's a tradition that's fallen out of favor," said the then 63-year-old Falco from the south-western French city of Perpignan, describing a time two centuries ago when a Moroccan king offered a roast camel to his people. "I brought it back."

Falco's meal fed 500 guests who each paid roughly $20 for a chance to feast on the record-breaking camel. According to the Age's report, Falco has quite the affinity for roasting massive cuts of meat — having six world records under his belt at the time of writing. In 1996, he spit-roasted the world's largest slab of beef, which weighed more than a metric ton.

Stateside, the most extreme relative to the roasted camel is the turducken, a Thanksgiving delicacy with something of a cult following. A turducken, as its hybrid name implies, features a chicken inside of a duck inside of a turkey, which, by one estimate, pegs one serving at over 1,000 calories.

Extrapolate that to the size of a camel and suddenly loosening the belt a few notches seems like an exercise in futility. Better break out the sweatpants.

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