There’s something pure about roasting meat whole. Eating an entire skewered suckling pig or slowly smoked lamb carcass is about as medieval as modern cookery gets. It might not be sophisticated, but it is incredibly satisfying. Obviously, some animals are easier to tackle than others. For one restaurant, however, size is seen as less of an impediment, and more a challenge that must be overcome. The results are spectacular.
Ercan Steakhouse, based in the Başakşehir region of Istanbul, is no ordinary eatery. It currently holds the title of world’s largest steakhouse and is spread across an astonishing 6,500 square metres. The facility boasts everything from 800 and 1200 seater conference halls to more intimate dining rooms and houses an almost impossible amount of meat. All this, however, pales into insignificance when you consider the crown jewel at the heart of the Ercan menu.
In addition to epic staples like grilled mutton, steaks and kebabs, Ercan also serves an entire smoked camel. Lovingly prepared over a period of 24 hours by head chef and chief proprietor Ercan Narinç, and capable of feeding up to 250 people in one sitting, according to the restaurant’s Instagram account, the dish is every bit as epic as it sounds.
In a video on Instagram, Narinç can be seen wheeling the beast inside a custom-made smoker, hump and all, before piling logs beneath the contraption. 24 hours later, the camel is withdrawn, revealing a gnarled, juicy carcass adorned with beautifully tender meat and crispy skin.
To complete the presentation ready for service, Narinç produces a rose, sprinkles the petals above the meat and stabs the stem into the hump. It is unclear whether this has any observable effect on the flavour. It does, however, make Narinç look like a floral Salt Bae, which is obviously something.
Although camel is not widely available in Western restaurants, the meat is highly prized across the Middle East and is particularly popular as a banquet centrepiece. Chefs generally recommend that the flesh is slow-cooked for a long period of time in order to make it as tender as possible. However, replicating the technique adopted at Ercan may understandably prove impractical for some.