NASSAU, Bahamas. A Bahamian walks into a bar: “Too much Kalik at Junkanoo. Now mi no sleep en da mony, problem!” Barman at the top of his voice: “Drive until you fall asleep en den yo’ no mo’ mony problem.” Bahamian: “Yo ‘tink it says ‘conch’ on dis forheed?!!” The whole bar laughs. I’m enthralled by all this and as I take a sip of my Kalik, I miss my mouth. Perhaps too many Kaliks. It’s time to eat.
We’re staying on Junkanoo Beach, off the beaten track, away from the tourist traps of Atlantis & Cable Beach and sitting at the Bikini Tiki Bar, dining toes in the sand on Bahamian fare. Most everything is fried and there’s conch in every way, shape and form. Cracked conch, conch fritters, conch salad, conch curry, conch stew, (I include a conch fritter recipe below. If conch is unavailable to you, substitute with shrimp). I find delight in the form of blackened grouper bites, not fried. There is Bahamian spiny lobster and Stan eats fall-of-the-bone jerk chicken. We will have to come back to this bar for him to get some more of that.
Tomorrow I will feel the after effects of Bahamian beer. A woman opens a coconut with a machete and with the help of fresh coconut water straight from the coconut, I’m a little more hydrated. I recover and that night we dance under the moonlight outside to the beat of a Bahamian artist. He is no spring chicken, but he strums that guitar like no young man can. Someone at a coconut & conch bar sits with two machetes in his hands. These are not used as weapons. He makes music with them and is so slight of hand that I have trouble capturing on film what he’s doing. The rhythm is out of this world.
We’re only there for 4 days, so we make the most of it. We eat a lot. We drink a lot of beer. Wine lovers, forget about it. Wine is almost non-existent. It is a beer and rum punch world, but be careful of the rum punch or soon you’ll be lying on the beach! We walk 16 hours in two days and see the entire west coasts of New Providence Island and Paradise Island on foot. We experience the extreme cerulean blue of the Bahamian waters and the intense white of the sand. On our way to Paradise Island, we walk past the harbor. A man pulls up with a boat with freshly caught conch. He shucks it and makes conch salad right there to purchase. It does not get any fresher than that. While walking, we realize we made a good choice not staying in the tourist areas. The Bahamian people are happy and friendly and the beauty of the ocean, beaches and tropical plants add to the magic of a laid back culture.
1 quart oil (for frying)
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup milk
ground cayenne pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
seasoning salt, to taste
salt, to taste (optional, the conch is naturally salty)
ground coarse black pepper, to taste
1 cup chopped conch
1⁄4green bell pepper, chopped fine
1⁄4yellow bell pepper, chopped fine
1⁄4red bell pepper, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, no subs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Pickapeppa Sauce
Heat the oil in large pot or deep fryer to 365F. In a bowl, mix the flour, egg and milk. Season with cayenne pepper, seasoning salt, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
Mix in the conch meat, onion, red & yellow & green pepper, celery and garlic. Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons into the hot oil and fry until golden brown.
Remove the basket or with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. In a bowl, mix the ketchup, lime juice, mayonnaise, hot sauce, salt & pepper.
Serve dipping sauce on the side with the fritters.
For more Bahamian recipes, see my book Have Food Will Travel by clicking on https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Have-Food-Will-Travel