Bahamian cuisine often consists of hearty home cooking and subtly spiced delicacies. Many dishes have been influenced by the southern states of the United States and infused with African, Asian and even the indigenous cuisine.
Virtually every type of international food can be found in the Bahamas. You might be surprised by a few creative twists and their million-and-one ways to make pea broth.
FOR AN AUTHENTIC BAHAMIAN EXPERIENCE, TRY FISH FOR BREAKFAST
Take a stroll around a village after sunrise and you’ll see locals serving up conch, lobster or red snapper with a plate full of peas and rice, baked macaroni and cheese, corn bread and a host of other side dishes.
Souse is a soup unique to the Caribbean. The only ingredients in souse are water, onions, lime juice, celery, peppers and meat. It’s a kind of purification breakfast and considered a great cure after a night out. Sometimes an oxtail or pigs’ feet can be thrown in, too.
Whatever you choose for breakfast, it’ll probably come with a Johnny Cake, which is a cross between British wheat-flour soda bread and cornbread. These days, the Johnny Cake has evolved and today some recipes are sometimes sweet.
A SEAFOOD EXTRAVAGANZA IS AT THE HEART OF AUTHENTIC BAHAMAN MEALS
Bahamian cuisine offers the best from the sea, served grilled and deep-fried. Watch out for the delectable “rock lobster”, a spiny variety that is served broiled. It’s also commonly minced in salads. Other delicacies include boiled or baked land crabs.
Try the crab at Front Porch (off of Queens Highway, Eleuthera), which is rumored to be out of this world. The Exuma Point Bar and Grille (North Tip of Great Exuma) is said to have the best seafood buffet on the island.
Conch (pronounced ‘konk’) is a large type of ocean mollusk that has firm, pale pink meat. Fresh conch is dug out of the shell with a small pick-ax and knife. Conch salad is perhaps the most famous way to serve it, which comes raw, straight from the shell, with lemon, lime, peppers, tomatoes and onion. It can also be deep fried (‘cracked conch’), steamed, or used in soup and stews.
Big D’s Conch (Stop Spot No. 2, Government Dock, Exuma) is one of the best places in the Bahamas for conch and has a great family atmosphere. Poorman’s Kitchen (Queen’s Highway, George Town, Grand Exuma) also comes highly recommended.
THE FAVORITE SIDE DISH – PEAS WITH EVERYTHING
Peas are a popular staple. Pea soup with dumplings and salted beef, or split pea and ham soup, are just a few of the common broth concoctions.
One popular side dish is to cook pigeon peas (from pods on small trees) or black-eyed peas with salted pork, tomatoes, celery, rice, thyme, green pepper, onion, salt, pepper and whatever the chief fancies or has at hand. It often comes with a sauce to pour over it.
Callao is a leafy salad dish made all over the Caribbean with a distinctive mix of African and indigenous character. In the Bahamas, they commonly add okra as well as rice, coconuts, banana, beans, cassava, cilantro, bell peppers, chick peas, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. You can also add meats or some curried spice.
INDULGE YOUR SENSES WITH A FABULOUS LOCAL DESSERT
The piece-de-resistance of Bahamian food is their national dessert, Guava Duff, a steamed pudding made with sieved guava fruit. It looks like a jellyroll and is served with a warm thick sauce made from butter, sugar, vanilla and rum.
TROPICAL FRUITS ACCENT MEALS IN THE BAHAMAS ALL YEAR ROUND
The Bahamas is packed with tropical fruits, and they make all sorts of ice creams, drinks and puddings from them. Guavas, papaya, melons, pineapples, passion fruit and mangoes are common all year around.
The most iconic fruit in the Bahamas must be the papaya, which is known as “pawpaw” among locals. It’s made into a dessert and preserved as chutney (try some on your Johnny Cake). It’s also blended subtly in many lunch and dinner recipes. There is even an old Bahamian custom of using the fruit as a meat tenderizer.
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