By Tenny Tamulong
EBC Florida Bureau
NASSAU, Bahamas (Eagle News) — The combination of fresh sweet onion, chopped red tomatoes, green pepper, a pinch of salt to taste, a squeezed lime, orange and lemon juice, and most importantly, freshly-caught conch, make up the famous conch salad. This delicious meal has captured the heart of both tourists and locals alike. Conch salad is never missing when one visits the “Fish Fry”, an area in Arawak Cay where popular local restaurants are situated and where tourists go to enjoy a nice, quiet evening or a jam-packed weekend. Locals and tourists find themselves captivated by the beautiful view on Bay Street where they can also sit and enjoy the Bahamian favorite, the conch salad.
This pink-lipped and spiral-shelled queen conch is inherent to the Bahamian way of life. Conch is a vital piece in the Bahamian food chain. In fact, diving for conch is a major part of the local fishermen’s way of life in the Bahamas. Conch is most indigenous to the Bahamas and has been consumed in the region since the days of their first inhabitants known as the Lucayan Indians. Bahamas conch, or the queen conch, are mainly found near the northeastern coast of South America and as far as Northern Brazil.
Danny McCardy, the owner of Twin Brother’s Seafood & Steakhouse Restaurant in Arawak Cay, mentioned that there was an abundance of conch on the island long before he and his twin brother, Buddy, started their business in 1989. They decided to include conch salad in their menu.
“Making conch salad is absolutely an art form. This definitely includes the perfect judgment of the person in choosing the correct limes and oranges to use. If these citrus starts to turn, I would advise not to use it for the salad. It would not taste right as it is supposed to,” McCardy stated. “Likewise there is a certain way in cutting and squeezing the citrus so as to not let any bitterness to ruin the sweet tangy taste of the salad.”
Others made the salad before by using only pure lime and sour orange juice in order to neutralize the sharpness of the limes but recently orange juice began to be added to the mix.
For customers not attracted to the traditional conch salad, local restaurants also serve the tropical scorched conch where the only vegetable added is the onion and various fruits, like mango or pineapple, become part of the recipe. Other restaurants have recently considered adding other kinds of fruits like strawberries. This alternative fruity kind of conch salad is known to be more refreshing and less spicy.
However, the island locals, mostly of older generations, still choose the original version since this is what their palates are used to.
As for McCardy, he chooses to keep on his menu a balance between the basic taste of the conch salad that the locals are accustomed to with the new versions of the conch salad that would invite tourists.
Visiting the Bahamas is never complete without experiencing the relaxing ambiance of Arawak Cay. Aside from the great weather and swimming in the turquoise sea, you can’t say you have had true Bahamian fare until you have had conch salad.
(Eagle News Service)