FOUR WAYS TO CONCH IN THE BAHAMAS
I’m finding things very easy here, easy to think all is well with the world. The temperatures linger around +30C/86F every day for the entire month I’m in Nassau. I get a slight “chill” when a quick storm blows through, and the mercury drops to +20C/68F.
I’m basking in the bright Bahamian sun, collecting rays and passing time, a Kalik beer in one hand, warm white sand through fingers of my other hand, along the gentle tropical waters of the Atlantic.
It’s not long before I’m learning how to eat like a Bahamian.
Friends bring me to the shacks by the harbour, where locals like to linger, gossip, drink beer, and nosh on fresh catch.
Yes, I want to know. No, I’m not from around here.
I’ve got conch on the brain.
“OH CONCH, GLORIOUS CONCH!”
Touted as the national food, conch (pronounced “konk”) is a large salt-water mollusk with white flesh tinged slightly with a bit of pink. Like other mollusks, conch meat is often on the rubbery or chewy side of edible. The firm meat is often tenderized by pounding or by
marinating in citrus juice.
Four common ways to eat conch are (1) conch salad, (2) conch fritters, (3) cracked conch, and (4) conch curry. I have conch with Kalik beer; I also have Kalik every day like it’s a health supplement …
Conch salad is prepared first by marinating uncooked conch in a hot sauce to break down the white flesh. The marinated conch is diced and mixed with chopped green and red peppers, onion, tomato, chili peppers, and doused in lime juice. It’s a Bahamian version of
“ceviche”, and on hot sultry days, this cool tart and spicy dish is a popular choice. Many conch stands will make and serve fresh conch salad to order on the spot.
Conch fritters are consumed as a appetizer or bar snack. Conch pieces are mixed with tomato paste, cut up peppers, and onions. The mixture is molded with flour into little balls which are deep fried in oil. Fritters fresh from the fryer are often served with mayo or hot
sauce. My plate of fritters are accompanied by yet another cold lime Kalik …
Cracked conch or fried conch is made like a breaded cutlet of veal, chicken, or pork. After slicing “filets” of conch, the portions are pounded thin, breaded, and fried. The fried conch is placed in bread or burger buns with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a little mayo. And right there’s my seafood burger, with a side of fries and a Coke …
Conch curry is prepared by marinating and steaming conch to soften the meat, before mixing with mild curry powder, garlic, onions, peppers, carrots, tomato, coconut milk, salt, and pepper. A slow simmer gets the best blend from all the flavours. I love how the sharp tang from the curry complement the bland starchy rice, and how the firm conch meat texture contrasts with the soft pebbley peas and rice.
I’ve had them all multiple times, and there are as many variations as there are people preparing them.
Hungry? I’m eager to return to the shacks by Nassau’s docks, greet the owners, sit among residents, listen to conversation and raucous laughter, and try the conch all over again.
Henry Lee has been writing personally, technically, and professionally for almost 30 years. He has travelled for work as a professional astronomer for 20 years. Combining the two seemed like a good idea at long last. Lately, he has become fascinated with the power in a set of ideas and the questions raised by a photograph or a story. He writes about photography and travel, particularly about Germany and Europe. He is a self-professed Germanophile, which explains why he is enamored with the German people and her language. Much of his present writing and photography appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.