Here at RocketNews24, every now and again we come across a restaurant or snack maker offering something that doesn’t sound at all appetizing, but is just too unique to pass up. In the past, my coworkers Steve and Amy have sampled wasp-filled rice crackers and bee larvae, and my own stomach and psyche are only now recovering from a dessert of not one, but two types of cakes made with chunks of tuna.
Now, it’s out intrepid Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato’s turn to pull up a chair to the crazy dining table, and camel hump is on the menu.
On his recent wanderings through west Japan, Mr. Sato spent some time in Tottori. One of Japan’s least-populous and least-visited prefectures, among people who can differentiate it from neighboring Shimane, Tottori is perhaps best known for its sand dunes, which are a geographic rarity in Japan. The sand dunes are one of the few major tourist attractions that Tottori boasts, and not only can travelers admire the beauty of the unique terrain, they can also snap pictures atop camels which are available to ride.
But while plenty of visitors to Shimane can say they’ve ridden the desert animal, not nearly as many can say they’ve eaten one. Still, that option is on the table too, thanks to Oshidori Ishokuya, a restaurant in Shimane City.
▼ The entrance to Oshidori Ishokuya
Like a lot of restaurants in Japan, Oshidori Ishokuya has a number of handwritten signs posted outside its entrance touting the delicacies it has on offer. Many of these are extremely unusual by Japanese standards, and the most startling of all may be the camel hump.
Never one to shy away from a new culinary experience, Mr. Sato strode bravely through the front door. Inside, he found seating for just 10 diners, with six chairs along a counter and a single four-person table on the tatami reed floor mats. No sooner did our reporter step across the threshold than he was greeted by a warm “Welcome!” from the owner, calling out in a voice that was clear and friendly, if perhaps louder than it needed to be given the cozy confines of the restaurant’s interior.
Right away, Mr. Sato ordered the camel hump, and then sat pondering just what the dish would look like while he waited. But although he had braced himself for a perfect half-sphere of meat to be placed before him, when his order actually came, it looked far more delicate than he’d expected.
The camel’s hump, it turns out, is primarily fat, which accounts for its tofu-like white color. This composition also means it’s ordinarily unpleasantly gooey, but when seasoned with a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, the hump becomes far easier to chew. The flavor is actually pretty mild and refreshing, and Mr. Sato says it would probably go especially well with some spicy miso paste to give it an extra kick.
The serving size, though, made the camel hump more of an appetizer than an entree. Looking over Oshidori Ishokuya’s menu once more, Mr. Sato decided to pass on such tempting options as crocodile and frog (after all, he just had a frog burger the other day) and decided to play it safe with some good old sautéed kangaroo.
Seasoned with ginger, much like pork often is in Japan, the flavor was pretty tasty, and Mr. Sato had the feeling kangaroo meat is probably packed with protein. Still, as a relatively muscular animal (compared to cows, pigs, and chickens), kangaroo is a little tough, with a consistency our reporter compared to horsemeat. Not bad, but if you’re after something more refined, stick with the camel hump.
Oshidori Ishokuya /おしどり居食屋
Address: Shimane-ken, Shimane-shi, Suehiro Onsen-cho, 752-2
Open Monday-Saturday 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Website (Guru Navi)
[ Read in Japanese ]