I’m basking in the Bahamian sun, collecting rays and passing time on the warm white sand.
It’s not long before I’m learning how to eat like a Bahamian. I’m craving for conch, peas and rice, and cold Kalik beer.
The ubiquitous conch
Known widely as the national food, conch (pronounced “konk”) is a large salt-water mollusk with white flesh and a slight shade of pink. Like other mollusks, conch meat can be rubbery or chewy. The firm meat is often tenderized by mechanical pounding or by marinating in citrus juice. Four ways to eat conch are conch salad, conch fritters, cracked conch or fried conch sandwich, and conch curry.
Conch salad is prepared with diced conch, green and red peppers, onion, tomato, chilli peppers, and citrus juice. It’s the Bahamian version of ceviche, and on hot sultry days, this cool salad is a popular choice. Many conch stands will make and serve fresh conch salad on demand, on the spot.
Conch fritters are often consumed as a bar snack. Conch pieces mixed with tomato paste, cut up green and red peppers, and onions are molded with flour into little balls, then deep fried in oil. Freshly fried fritters may be eaten with a variety of sauces including a simple red hot sauce, a creamy cilantro tartar sauce, or a chipotle mayo.
Cracked conch (fried conch) is prepared similar to a breaded cutlet of veal, chicken, or pork. After cutting thin “filets” of conch, the portions are pounded thin, breaded, and fried. And thus, the Bahamian version of the seafood sandwich consists of fried conch in bread or burger buns with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a little mayo.
Conch curry is prepared by marinating and steaming conch to get the most flavour out of the meat, before mixing with curry powder, garlic, onions, peppers, carrots, tomato, coconut milk, salt, and pepper. A slow simmer squeezes out maximum flavours. The curry is typically served over Bahamaian peas and rice.
It’s not surprising there’s also conch chowder or conch soup. Other prepared variations of conch include steamed conch, cooked in Creole sauce served over rice, and seafood stews.
I dream of returning to the Bahamas for the blue skies, white sands, bottles of Kalik, and the conch.
Two Places To Go For Conch
• Potter’s Cay Fish Shacks, for a street-food experience with Nassau residents.
• Nassau Yacht Club, for club members who want A/C with their dining.
I made the photos above with a 4th-generation iPod Touch throughout May 2012 on my year-long journey around-the-world. A version of this post appeared on A Cook Not Mad’s “Honest Food Tales” series on 16 May 2014. The present modified version appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-4×7. My thanks to the Wilcox family who put up this traveling hobo and who taught him a thing or two about the truth of what it meant “to chill.”