Dining

This Moroccan Restaurant's Camel Burger Is Worth the Trip

Why culinary travelers journey from near and far to try Café Clock's camel burger
What Does a Camel Burger Taste Like?
Photo: cinoby/Getty Images

Tucked down a quiet alleyway in the dizzying streets of the Fez medina, a lively haven for travelers and locals alike awaits. At Café Clock, which opened in 2006 and expanded to a second location in Marrakesh in 2014, fresh cuisine is served with a healthy side dish of local culture.

The restaurant, which acts as a café and cultural center, offering cooking classes, jam sessions and storytelling shows, serves everything from traditional Moroccan dishes to café classics. However, the distinctive menu item that has really put the shop on the map for adventurous gourmands is its camel burger.

 

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Camels have been a key source of protein throughout the history of Moroccan cuisine. For ages, desert dwellers turned to camel meat for fuel; however, it wasn't until the last few centuries that gourmands far and wide began to catch on to the potential of this unique protein.

Though camel meat can be purchased in markets across Morocco, it's still a relative delicacy and won't be found on most menus. Camel meat is leaner, lower in cholesterol and richer in protein than other red meats. The hump, said to be the tastiest part, is far fattier and more tender than the rest of the animal.

 

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In his 1859 book, The Curiosities of Food, which documented the "delicacies of different nations obtained from the animal kingdom," author Peter Lund Simmonds describes the flesh of the camel as "dry and hard, but not unpalatable."  

Today, chefs are striving to turn the challenging meat into something appealing to Moroccan and international diners. There are myriad ways to serve it: minced and folded into an omelet; formed into spicy camel kefta (sausages); and ground and stuffed into the animal's spleen before being roasted and served sliced with khobz (bread).

However, Café Clock has adapted camel meat for its stylish international clientele, topping it as you would any other burger (tomato, cheese, ketchup) and serving it alongside a pile of fries.

Although camel meat is tougher than cow meat, the flavor is similar to beef or veal, with a subtle, sweet aftertaste. Camel hump fat helps give the patties moisture, and cilantro, mint, cumin and paprika add a bold, herbaceous quality. But the real secret ingredient? Dried rose petals from the floral-producing valley of Kelaat M'Gouna; they are known as powerful aphrodisiacs and lend a subtle floral flavor.

While a handful of other culinary destinations worldwide have also embraced the ingredient—including The Exotic Meat Company, which has sold camel burgers and steaks sourced from the Australian outback in its stall in Borough Market in London—there's nothing quite like taking your first bite from atop Café Clock's roof as you watch the sky grow pink over a maze of mosques and markets.

Gillie Houston is Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor currently traveling the world in hunt of good stories and great tacos. Follow her culinary wanderlusting on Instagram at @gilliehouston.

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