Originally posted by: Tru Bahamian Must Eat
If you have ever wandered the streets of Downtown Nassau in search of epicurean gems- perhaps as one of our Bites of Nassau Food Tour guests- you’ll know that the most popular form of seafood here in The Bahamas is conch, and for very good reasons. Versatile, packed with flavour, and cheap relative to other forms of local seafood, it’s no wonder conch is so widely eaten, and eaten in so many different ways. While we Bahamians tend to appreciate conch no matter how it is prepared- we can all agree on that when we’re in the mood for a meal that is hearty, crunchy, deeply satisfying and able to be eaten by hand or on the go: Cracked Conch is the only version of this seafood that comes to mind. Breaded in a light flour batter and deep-fried into golden perfection (and perfection we do mean), Cracked Conch is a definite Must Eat in The Bahamas and a delicious dish that you’ll be delighted to add to your repertoire of Bahamian recipes!
The Art of Cracking Conch
Credit: Finally Fun!
We like to think of Cracked Conch as our Bahamian version of British fish and chips. While the distinguishing feature of the dish is indeed its crispy, yet tender batter, the Cracked Conch name actually originates from the method of tenderizing the meat to make it more malleable. As we’ve mentioned in some of our previous conch-related posts, the queen conch is an extremely tough, chewy meat whose texture can only be compared to that of a rubber band IF not tenderized properly. We use many methods to tenderize conch here in The Bahamas, but do designate certain methods for very specific recipes:
- For Conch Salad – our unique form of ceviche- we use limes (sometimes sour oranges too) and goat pepper to tenderize and scorch the raw meat.
- For Conch Chowder and Conch Fritters, the meat is ground in a meat grinder or finely chopped in a food processor to make the meat easier to eat and to stretch the dish out to feed more mouths.
- When it comes to Cracked Conch, however, we lovingly “crack” the meat by hand to make it nice and tender.
“Cracking” is a method by which the cook pounds the meat with a meat mallet (or a frying pan- the preferred tool of island chefs) until the meat is thin and tender – we even have a festival dedicated to the practice. Once that’s done, we batter the meat and deep-fry the thin strips into golden nuggets of mouth-watering goodness! The “cracking” is an arduous process, and quite a number of conchs are required to produce a hearty single serving but every Bahamian will quickly tell you the work is well worth the time and effort- for “cracking” produces some of the most tender helpings of conch you’ll ever have!
Cracked Conch “Dinners” vs. “Snacks”
Cracked Conch is light and flavourful- it goes well whichever traditional Bahamian side dish you’re in the mood for. Cracked Conch “dinner” (also available at lunchtime!) features the conch as the main protein accompanied by Bahamian Peas N’ Rice and your choice of other popular sides such as: Baked Macaroni and Cheese, potato salad, sweet plantains, and coleslaw.
Bahamian Cracked Conch is also a close friend of French Fries and, when combined, the two are known as a “snack” on menus. Commonly, the conch/fries duo is served with a hefty slather of ketchup and hot sauce along with a roll of delicious Island Sweet Bread. Be sure to not be fooled by the term Bahamian “snacks” however- these plates feature the conch in just the same amounts as when you order the full “dinner” (just minus the side dishes).
Popular on Nassau menus, Cracked Conch is also consumed in smaller portions- as a delightful appetizer, served with fresh lime juice and goat pepper sauce, and even smothered in tartar sauce atop fresh garden greens in some restaurants. We also recommend Cracked Conch Burgers which feature strips of cracked conch nestled between the two slices of a sweet homemade bun along with with raw onions, cheese, and dripping with ketchup! Yum.
Since Cracked Conch is a understandably a country-wide favourite, there’s no shortage of restaurants (and home cooks) that will offer the dish for your enjoyment. However, there are a few restaurants here in Nassau that are particularly well known for mastering the craft (both the hearty meal and smaller “snack” varieties).
How To Make Bahamian Cracked Conch
Of all Bahamian dishes, Cracked Conch has to be the simplest to cook…that is after the “cracking” of the conch is completed! The ingredients are easy to come by and the frying pan really does most of the work. For tasty Cracked Conch Appetizers with Tartar Sauce from the kitchen of our very own Bites of Nassau Food Tour guide Lexi, here’s what you’ll need:
- 1.5 lbs conch fillets
- 2 eggs
- ½ cups evaporated milk
- ½ tsp parsley
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ cups flour
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp minced sweet pickles
- 1 tbsp minced yellow onion
- 2 tsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp hot sauce
Clean conch meat thoroughly, then add meat to a freezer bag and pound with a meat mallet until thin and tender (don’t skip this step!). Slice each fillet into 1-inch strips and set aside. Beat eggs until frothy, then mix together with milk, salt, and pepper until combined. Dip each 1-inch strip of conch meat into egg mixture, and then roll in flour. In a pre-heated frying pan, add oil and fry the battered strips until golden brown. Once fried, drained oil and let cool for 10 minutes.
For the tartar sauce, mix all ingredients until well combined. Serve alongside cracked conch strips with lime wedge for taste. Ketchup and hot sauce are also optional condiments!
Shrimp or squid can be substituted if conch is not available in your local fish market.
Question:- Which are you having when you visit The Bahamas: Cracked Conch Dinner or Snack? Leave us your best restaurant recommendations once you’re on island by commenting below or Tweeting us at @FunnTripps