The islands of the Bahamas, I would have to say, without bias, have some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. The islands are known for the beaches and white sand, in addition to the year round tropical weather and of course all the uber friendly people. It’s definitely a must to visit this great country at least once in your lifetime.
But enough of that, let’s get to the main reason you’re here. Maybe you’ve visited the Bahamas before, there now, or thinking of planning a trip. And if you’re anything like me, I hate going to another country and only experiencing the “touristy” things the place has to offer. The resorts, all inclusives and sight-seeing things are fine, but I want to know where the locals hang out and get to experience what they’re eating (because I can get toast, eggs and bacon at home). So when in the Bahamas, here are some foods you need to be asking about – the real island cuisine.
Undoubtedly the most important meal of the day, Bahamians traditionally love to have a hearty breakfast to carry them over into lunch and beyond.
Ok, how can I explain this – souse is a kind of soup/broth containing some meat, potatoes and sometimes carrots. The meat is boiled and seasonings are added as it boils – salt, whole all spice, onions and some kind of pepper to taste (usually red or habanero – called goat pepper). In restaurants though, the pepper is served on the side and is optional. Souse is also served with Johnny cake (it’s not really sweet) or sometimes grits.
Similar to souse, just as the name suggests this dish utilizes grouper fish, again with potatoes (most times), onions and goat peppers. Boiled Fish is served too with Johnny cake or grits.
This is a bit different from the souse options. Stews, are typically fried then simmered and the “gravy” is made from a browned roux, so this is thicker than and flavored differently than the souse. Using conch or fried fish, the roux is made and allowed to ‘brown’ and once seasoned, water is added, followed by the meat which is allowed to simmer (diced potatoes and carrots are usually added as well). Served typically with Johnny cake (are you sensing the trend here?)
In my opinion, lunch/dinner is the most creative meal option of the day. A lot of foods are not suitable for early breakfast hours, but for lunch or dinner, the body and your metabolic system is ready to take whatever you throw at it. So explore your food creativity a little.
Rice is one food that is truly universal. Every country has their own spin on how they prepare this popular grain, and the Bahamas is no different. Our rice dish is bursting with complex flavors and can include one of various legumes, namely pigeon or black-eyed peas or kidney beans to name a few. Coconut milk, herbs & spices are also typical additions. Our rice is eaten with everything from fried fish to BBQ chicken or ribs.
If you visit the Bahamas, there’s a 90% chance you’ll encounter some conch dish (unless you’re allergic of course). Conch, a word you will see several times in this post, is a Bahamian staple – we deep fry it, stew it, boil it and eat it sushi style – raw. I never really thought of it as such, but conch salad is kinda like sushi, minus the rice and cover up sauces. Conch fresh from ocean is cleaned, and diced, fresh herbs (onions, bell peppers, goat peppers etc) and spices (salt, pepper and fresh squeezed limes) are added and tossed together for a bowl of fresh, conchy goodness.
Here goes that word again – conch. Remember I told you it was a staple? We are clearly addicted. Conch fritters are an appetizer made from conch (obviously) in a batter that is deep fried and served with a kind of chipolte mayo dipping sauce (some people prefer ketchup).
Ok, so this is the last time, promise. But again, conch – this time it is coated with seasoned flour and deep fried. Cracked conch is served with fries and a dinner roll, or with tossed salad for the more health conscious.
If you love coconuts or coconut water, you’ll love sky juice. Made from coconut water, with the addition of condensed milk, sky juice can be either ‘leaded’ (with alcohol – usually vodka) or ‘unleaded’ (no alcohol).
Once you’ve had your fill of Bahamian dishes at lunch, then you can top it all off with a sweet treat.
This stuff is seriously like heaven on a platter! Yup, I said it, it is really that good. It’s one of those must have desserts for Bahamians and tourists alike. Made from guavas rolled into a dough and served sliced with a butter & guava cream sauce.
Another taste of coconuty deliciousness, (also made with pineapples) tarts are basically a fruit filling encased in a soft, sweet bread. Tarts are also sometimes made into little, single serve pies (think of apple pies with the lattice crust, but with coconuts/pineapples as filling).
So there ya have it, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, these amazing dishes are a must if you want the true Bahamian experience. If you are a foodie like I am, I highly recommend and fully endorse these choices for the ultimate ”foodgasm”.