Eating Conch in Nassau, Bahamas
Last week I found myself in Nassau, the capital of New Providence Island in the Bahamas, in a lovely airbnb apartment on the Sandyport Marina Village. I arrived late on Sunday night and on Monday morning woke up to a gorgeous sight of pastel coloured colonial-type houses on the water, with boats moored up on their private jetties….this definitely beats the normal Monday morning rush hour in London!
Sandyport Marina Village
And I was just across the road at Sandyport Beach where I took in this wonderful view of the pier that stretches out into the turquoise blue waters….and quite amazingly, I was the only person on the beach!
The pier at Cable Beach
I ventured out to go exploring and caught a local ‘Jitney’ bus that only cost $1.25 to get into the centre of Downtown Nassau about 3 miles away. Nassau is a cruise port and hosts at least a couple of cruises a day, so I was lucky enough to see five cruise ships all proudly lined up together.
5 Cruise Ships in Nassau Port
As I stood watching the cruise ships, I noticed along the wall edging the harbour, a display of conch shells being sold by a local fisherman for $7. Little did I know that the conch shells contain a creature that you can actually eat, is considered a great delicacy, and is the national food of the Bahamas. I had one of these beautiful pink conch shells as a child, and I used to hold it up to my ear to see if I could hear the sound of waves crashing on some exotic beach….and now here I was on the very island that they come from!
Fishermen selling conch shells
Later that evening, over a glass of chilled white wine, I was talking to my hostess in the apartment, Debi (I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning her!) who was a mine of information about living and working in the Bahamas. She also mentioned some of the food I might like to try whilst I was here, and the local delicacy, ‘conch fritters’, which she said tasted like calamari. Well I like calamari so I thought I’d give it a try….
And here’s a bit about the Conch…
The conch or ‘conk’ as it’s pronounced by the Bahamians, are plucked from the sea bed around the warm seas of the Caribbean islands, and on the smaller, more deserted islands, the shells literally cover the beaches where they are washed up.
Conch shells littering the beach
The conch itself is like a giant snail and is pulled out of the shell and prepared for eating, but looks quite, well, unappetising to say the least, but it’s delicious. The conch meat is firm, white, has a chewy texture and tastes just like calamari. It can be eaten in various ways, steamed or deep-fried, or served raw in a salad. I was on a boat trip across to Paradise Island and the guide on the boat described the ‘pistol’ of the conch to be a potent aphrodisiac, and for the ladies to make sure their men ate at least two bowls of conch chowder!
The strange-looking conch from the shell
Conch Fritters in Downtown Nassau
Here are a few of the main ‘conk’ dishes that you’ll find in many of the restaurants in the Bahamas, like the Conch Fritters restaurant in Downtown Nassau by the Harbour:
Conch Fritters – These fritters are bite-sized balls and made with fresh chopped conch that is mixed with finely diced peppers and onions, battered with flour, and then deep-fried. They also usually come with a pot of hot sauce for dipping.
Conch Salad – The raw conch is again diced and mixed together with chopped tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and lime and lemon juice. The citrus juice that the conch is marinaded in cooks the conch meat, so it doesn’t seem like it’s raw.
Cracked Conch – The conch is deep-fried and served with rice (and sometimes fries), and a spicy dipping sauce. Although it looks a bit like deep-fried calamari, cracked conch has a lot more flavour.
So later that evening, Debi and I decided to have a bite to eat at Compass Point, a beautiful little hotel complex that used to be owned by Chris Blackwell of Island Records fame. We sat on an outside terrace overlooking the sea and ordered their Signature Salad which was around $18 and had a glass of white wine, which in total came to around $30.
The brightly-coloured huts at Compass Point
View of Compass Point from Love Beach
We got there early to get a seat as it gets really busy, and also to watch the sunset, and we weren’t disappointed…. What a lovely end to my first day in the balmy Bahamas!
A beautiful Bahamian sunset!
Tips for Travelling to the Bahamas:
I flew direct to Nassau from London Heathrow on British Airways which took roughly 9 hours outward and 8.5 hours inbound.
I stayed at Sandyport Marina Village with airbnb which is about 3 miles from Downtown Nassau.
The ‘Jitney’ buses run from early morning til about 6pm and cost between $1.25 to Downtown Nassau and $3.00 further afield round the island.
The Bahamian Dollar and the US Dollar are the same value and are interchangeable when paying for anything.
Pack light, as the weather rarely drops below 25 degrees and is often 32 degrees in high summer.