Camel isn't exactly wild game; no one is paying money to go on safari and hunt dromedaries in the deserts (well...yet). But that hasn't kept the camel burger from being one of the most popular items at Sammy's Wild Game Grill. And after trying my first camel, I have a pretty good idea why.
Sammy's Wild Game Grill
3715 Washington Ave., Ste. A
Camel contains less than half the fat of beef, yet it's higher in protein—and here's the kicker: despite its low fat content, camel meat is remarkably juicy. My burger from Sammy's was greasy, and I mean that in the best possible way. The anemic hue of the meat initially put me off, looking a bit like a turkey burger and evoking thoughts of that dry, unappealing crumble turkey patties always present. But one bite proved me wrong.
So the texture of the burger proved attractive, but what about the taste? Camel meat has a sweet, grassy flavor—not unlike kangaroo, another meat Sammy's serves (and which I've also enjoyed in a Vietnamese context at A Ly in Chinatown). There's a subtle smack of gaminess to it but it isn't off-putting, especially for anyone who's eaten and enjoyed duck or venison. Believe it or not, I actually liked the camel burger far more than most beef hambugers I've had; the meat is just that good, and I didn't feel gross or heavy after polishing it off (as I nearly always do post-beef).
The camel burger has been a "seasonal special" at Sammy's since last summer and will run you $11.95. Other current specials include a yak burger at $9.95 and a kangaroo sausage hot dog for $9.95, and Sammy's promises an iguana burger is on its way soon. Whatever you end up choosing, however, I'll always recommend topping it with Sammy's special recipe Ghost Pepper Sauce: its intense heat fades into a pleasant sweetness after only a second or two, and perks up nearly anything you put it on.
Currently, camel is one of the least-consumed meats in the world despite a pedigree that includes being served at ancient Persian banquets and enjoyed by Roman emperors. (Heliogabalus was a big fan of camel heel.) And though camel has traditionally been eaten in Northern African and the Middle East, a vast herd of over 1 million feral camels in Australia—where the creature is considered a terrible pest—has led to entrepreneurial meat-packers culling the herd and exporting its meat to international markets. Saudi Arabia, which eats more camel than it can produce, has already started purchasing Australian camel meat. Perhaps one day America will purchase its own camel meat en masse, and you'll find camel steaks and ground camel at H-E-B, just waiting to be taken home and transformed into a camel burger in your own backyard.