Common in East African cuisine, camel meat has not migrated to the US. In fact, for its new camel burger, Safari Express had to source its meat all the way from camel-plagued Australia.
That’s a shame, because — as you’ll agree after eating this juicy burger — it’s clear we’ve all been missing out.
Since early October, chef Jamal Hashi’s outpost in the Midtown Global Market has offered the camel burger, selling about 40 per day of a sandwich Hashi said is unique in the US. This is no gimmick. One bite of Safari’s other offerings prove Hashi is a talented chef.
He knows good ingredients, too: The butter-toasted bun is from Market-mate The Salty Tart and would be delicious by itself. The burger is piled with a pineapple slice, red onion, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and a mild sauce. A handful of decent fries are included, but, c’mon, we’re here for the camel.
And it doesn’t disappoint. The meat is super lean, yet not dry in the least. And it’s not those juicy toppings tricking the tongue — a bite of just meat proves Hashi’s patty is loaded with pepper, slightly chewy, and entirely delicious.
“Camel meat is highly nutritious, and I appreciate the the texture of eating a meat with virtually no fat or cholesterol,” Hashi said. “It has no game taste. If compared to anything, I’d say it’s more like a bison burger.”
That flavor is the perfect counter to the sweet pineapple slice. The blend of meat and spices, which Hashi said resulted after several weeks of trial-and-error, is what dry old ground sirloin wishes it could be, and could replace ground beef in just about anything. Meatloaf immediately comes to mind. In a blind taste-test the patty might be mistaken for a blend of beef, bison, and lamb.
“The concept came to me right after the State Fair,” Hashi said. “We served camel on a stick, and it gave me the opportunity to play with the meat and offer it in a burger format. I wanted not to scare people away. We do live in Minnesota, after all.”
Hashi’s burger is certainly as good as any in the city. It’s less “Wow, I just ate camel!” and more “Wow, that’s a damn fine burger.” And it’s yet one more solid offering at the Global Market, making the choice of what to eat there even more of a struggle.
Safari Express is located in the Midtown Global Market at 920 E Lake St in Minneapolis. Its hours are Mon-Sat: 10am-8pm and Sun: 11am-6pm.
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