Although virtually any type of international food can be found in The Islands Of The Bahamas, it would be a mistake to miss an opportunity to sample the local cuisine. No matter where you are, you won't have any difficulty finding plenty of restaurants serving Bahamian cuisine and fresh local seafood at reasonable prices.

Seafood is the staple of the Bahamian diet. Conch (pronounced "konk") is a large type of ocean mollusk that has firm, white, peach-fringed meat. Fresh, uncooked conch is delicious; the conch meat is scored with a knife, and lime juice and spices are sprinkled over the meat. It can also be deep-fried (called "cracked conch"), steamed, added to soups, salads and stews or made into conch chowder and conch fritters.  NOTE:  Where Conch is unavailable, Lobster may be substituted in the following recipesIt is known for its alleged aphrodisiac properties. The Bahamian "rock lobster" is a spiny variety without claws that is served broiled, minced or used in salads. Other delicacies include boiled or baked land crabs, which can be seen, before they are cooked, running across the roads after dark.

Fresh fish also plays a major role in the cooking of The Islands Of The Bahamas -- a popular brunch is boiled fish served with grits, and when done right, is often the most flavourful way to enjoy the taste of a fresh catch. Stew fish, made with celery, onions, tomatoes and various spices, is another local specialty. Many dishes are accompanied by pigeon peas and rice (the infamous peas 'n' rice served throughout the Caribbean), with spices, tomatoes and onions.

Another main ingredient in Bahamian fare is coconutA dessert is not quite Bahamian unless the sweet taste of the coconut is added! Coconut trees are in abundance in the Bahamas and coconuts are a common ingredient in Bahamian dishes especially desserts.  Coconut can be found in tarts, cakes, pies, pudding, trifle, custard and ice cream and sometimes shredded on top of almost anything!  Coconuts are available year-round. They are usually found in grocery stores and at fruit stands with the outer ‘husk’ removed. The hairy brown shell (size of a large grapefruit) is lined with ‘meat’ and contains juice (termed coconut water or milk). To get the juice out without spilling, you can tap a screwdriver into one of the soft round spots on the end of the coconut and drain it into a glass.

Peas also figure prominently in the wide array of fragrant Bahamian soups -- pea soup with dumplings and salt beef and the familiar split pea and ham soup are just two of the many pea-based broths. One soup unique to the Caribbean and Bahamas is the souse (pronounced "sowse") -- the only ingredients are water, onions, lime juice, celery, peppers and meat; no thickeners are added. The meat added to a souse is often chicken, sheep's tongue, oxtail or pigs' feet -- giving the souse a delicious, rich flavor, new to many visitors.

The cuisine of The Islands Of The Bahamas is never, ever bland. Spicy, subtly and uniquely flavored with local meats and produce, more than any other cuisine in the West Indies, Bahamian cooking has been influenced by the American South. One very popular example of this influence is the "fish 'n' grits" mentioned above.

For a late breakfast or early anything ask our friendly conchmonger to ‘scorch’ (Bahamian word for score) a fresh conch. Needed in this concoction is a squeeze of lime, slices of onion and the all important fire-hot Bahamian bird pepper. The whole mixture is then eaten out of a plastic bag and washed down with soda or beer. A truly Bahamian treat!

Try and enjoy any one of these recipes for a taste of the Bahamas!  'Ya Mon'  Be sure to stock up on hot sauce, Bahamians love hot & spicy food!!

NOTE:  Where conch is not available you can substitute lobster.  Thanks to Andy Lee for the great tip!!