If you travel by “following your stomach,” as I do – then you are definitely in for a treat when you visit the Bahamas. After all, there’s more than sand, sun and Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.
Travel with tripatlas.com/new as we take you to discover the best local foods and specialty dishes in the Bahamas. Want to learn more about the Bahamas? Read our article on Bahamas for Beginners: Discover the Best of Nassau and Atlantis Paradise Island or visit the Official Bahamas Tourism Website for a complete guide.
How to Eat Like a Local in the Bahamas
In the Bahamas, it’s all about conch (pronounced “konk”). The Arawak natives of the Caribbean and Haiti have eaten conch for hundreds of years and their tradition continues today. Taken from the spiral mollusk shell of a conch, the meat of conch is often compared to clams, mussels or snails and can be prepared or eaten raw and cooked. From conch fritters to conch salad, conch burgers to conch gumbo and conch chowder, there’s no lack of conch-themed foods in the Bahamas
1. Conch Fritters or “Cracked Conch”
Conch fritters or cracked conch, sometimes known by tourists as “savoury donuts,” are by far one of the tastiest and best local dishes of the Bahamas. The meat is taken from the conch shell, pounded and marinated with limejuice for tenderization, battered and then deep-fried. Each delicious bite is a taste of fried conch heaven. You’ll find conch fritters as appetizers in almost every restaurant in the Bahamas serving Bahamian-style food and even in some restaurants located in southern Florida.
2. Conch Salad
Another popular conch dish is conch salad. The raw conch meat is diced with tomato, onion, celery, cucumber and green pepper. This mixture is stirred-in with a blend of acidic and flavour-enhancing juices – often a “secret recipe” of each restaurant – but usually made up of limejuice, vinegar and hot sauce. This is a great dish since it’s refreshing, healthy and a true exotic Bahamian taste.
3. Conch Chowder
If you’re thinking creamy New England clam chowder, think again. Conch chowder is more like Manhattan clam chowder – a tomato-based soup made up of fresh vegetables, potatoes, onion, celery, carrots and of course – conch. Served hot, conch chowder is a classic Bahamian dish and in essence, the Bahamian version of Chicken Noodle Soup.
4. Kalik Beer
Kalik beer (pronounced “ka-lick”) is the beer of the Bahamas and for many locals, it supports and reflects Bahamian culture and history Produced in the Bahamas, the Kalik beer factory brews 1.7+ million cases of 24’s per year with more than 50% being consumed in the Bahamas. A light and smooth beer, there’s nothing better than a Kalik when you’re lying on the beach or sitting at the patio under the bright Bahamian sun.
Kalik beer was named after the sound of a cowbell (“ka-lick”), a special instrument used in Junkanoo, an annual parade that has been taking place in the Bahamas for over 200 years. Historically, December 26th was the only “day off” that slaves would get from their masters. On this day, the slaves would come together and celebrate with dancing, music, costumes – and cowbells. The celebration became Junkanoo and it is celebrated today throughout the Bahamas. It’s no wonder Kalik is considered a truly Bahamian beer.
5. Local Seafood & Fish served with Peas ‘n Rice
When you’re in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, there’s nothing like fresh seafood and fish. Specialties in the Bahamas include rock lobster, snapper, mahi mahi, bonefish and grouper. From high-end restaurants to relaxed street-side vendors, there are hundreds of different ways to prepare seafood and fish in the Bahamas. Boiled with grits, roasted, broiled, grilled, on an open fire, in the oven, battered, encrusted, fried, deep-fried – the list goes on. Of course, it’s always served with a hearty helping of peas ‘n rice.
6. “Yo ho ho and a bottle of Rum”
Just like Kalik, there is no shortage of rum in the Bahamas. With a multitude of local rum distilleries, there’s a long history of rum-making in the Bahamas. When the United States was under Prohibition after the Civil War, the Bahamas became an important conduit for contrabands like whiskey, rum and gin. Large ships would carry alcohol to the Bahamas where it would be off-loaded into smaller ships or stored in warehouses near the shore (a strip that became known as “rum row”) to be smuggled into the United States.
Since then, rum has been known to be the national drink of the Bahamas. Pick up a delicious coconut or mango-flavoured rum; perfect when mixed with other fruit juices, milk or ginger ale.
7. Bahamian Signature Rum Cocktails: Bahama Mama, Rum Punch & Goombay Smash
Daiquiris, cocktails, rum and coke, rum with orange juice, rum with pineapple juice – there’s no lack of local mixed drinks and specialties. Each restaurant or bar has its own signature drink or mix of alcohols and juices – but here are a few of the most popular.
Bahama Mama is made up of light rum, coconut rum, Nassau Royale vanilla-flavoured rum mixed with orange and pineapple juice. Rum Punch is made up of a rich dark rum, orange and pineapple juices, grenadine and a dash of bitters. Another popular drink found at Twin Brothers restaurant on Arawak Cay is Goombay Smash, a drink mixed of light rum, coconut rum, pineapple juice and a dash of Galiano.
8. Rum Cake!
One of the things I get excited about when I think of Bahamian flavours is rum cake. Delicious and moist, these bundt-shaped cakes come in a number of different and tasty flavours. Be sure to take a few home as souvenirs for your family and coworkers.
The Bahamas Rum Cake Factory in Nassau on East Bay Street offers: Original Caribbean Rum Cake; Caribbean Chocolate Ecstasy Cake, Pina Colada and Ole Nassau Rum Cake – made from the rum that was voted #1 in the world in the 1998 Caribbean Week Rum Taste Test.
9. Macaroni & Cheese
Sure, it sounds crazy – macaroni and cheese is a local specialty in the Bahamas? It’s true – and it’s often served with potato salad. Macaroni and cheese in the Bahamas is a heavily creamed, ultra-smooth and deliciously cheesy baked dish. The “holy trinity” of Caribbean or Creole foods: celery, onion and green pepper are often also included in a typical Bahamian “mac and cheese.” Most travellers who visit the Bahamas and taste the macaroni and cheese in the Bahamas often swear by it as “the best macaroni and cheese you’ll ever taste.” Go figure – I can’t explain it, but it’s worth a taste when you’re visiting.
10. Guava, Pineapple and Coconut
Finally, many desserts in the Bahamas are made up of its local fruits: coconut, pineapple and guava. Served fresh and cut up on a fruit plate or in the form of tarts, cakes, pies, puddings and custards, these fruits are heavily used in Bahamian cooking. Be sure to finish off your meal with a swish of flavoured Bahamian rum on the rocks!
Find out more on the Bahamas or book your trip to the Bahamas today: www.bahamas.com.
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