So you want to take a vacation in the tropical paradise of the Bahamas. You have found your flights, chosen your accommodation and planned your activities. But what will you eat when you get there? Although many hotels and restaurants offer typically contemporary Western dishes, no travel experience is complete without a taste of local cuisine. What can you expect to receive in the Bahamas?
The Bahamas is an archipelago of more than 700 islands. Due to the abundance of water, traditional Bahamian cuisine is highly dependent on food that can be harvested from the ocean. Seafood is a staple food in the Bahamas. The national dish is the conch (pronounced’konk’), a large tropical variety of sea snail. The flesh of the mollusc is firm and very pale in colour. There are many ways to prepare and serve the conch, including steaming, stewing or frying. A fresh, uncooked conch, notched and drizzled with spices and lime juice, is also a delicious delight.
Bahamian cuisine includes shellfish such as crab and rock lobster. Lobsters are also known as lobsters or crayfish and are usually served grilled, chopped or in a salad. Crab species such as Florida thorny crab are consumed in many cultures, although Bahamian crab dishes are commonly served baked.
The other common seafood found in the Bahamas is, of course, fish. There are a wide variety of ways to prepare fish, but one of the Bahamas’ favourite traditional dishes is boiled fish served with oatmeal. Large fish such as grouper and whitefish can also be fried, sautéed, baked or grilled.
Despite the abundance of seafood, chicken, pork and goat are also popular meat dishes. Some tourist destinations offer chicken as an alternative to seafood for people who are allergic to seafood. Roasted iguana meat was once a popular meal; however, due to the endangered status of the species, iguanas are no longer on the menu.
Soups are a mainstay of Caribbean cuisine, and the Bahamas is no exception. Many cultures have a penchant for soups, which give rise to endless combinations of ingredients. The most popular soups in the Bahamas include conch soup, split pea and ham soup, fish chowder, pepper stew and pea soup with dumplings and salted beef. For a typical Caribbean soup, the bold flavours of the soup, a soup made with meat, water, onions, celery, lime juice and peppers, are a classic.
Tropical fruits are a key element of Bahamian cuisine, whether consumed alone or as a delicious ingredient in a wide range of dishes. Pineapples, mangos, guavas, passion fruits, sapodillas and papayas are all grown in the Bahamas. Papaya is one of the most versatile fruits, used in desserts, chutneys and tropical drinks. Papayas contain papain, an enzyme that breaks down tough meat fibers and is therefore used as a meat tenderizer. It is also a key ingredient in’Goombay’ marmalade, a Bahamian condiment made from papaya, pineapple and green ginger.
Dessert in the Bahamas is a very fruity affair, with almost all traditional desserts containing tropical fruits. Fresh fruit is deliciously sweet in itself, but can also be baked in pies, crumbles or any other bakery product. Duff is a traditional Bahamian dessert created by folding fruits, especially guava, into a paste and boiling them.
As you would expect from any tropical island, the Bahamas also offers an impressive range of drinks. Switcha is one of the most famous drinks and is made from limes or limes, with added sugar and water. Coconut water is often served as a light refreshment and can be mixed with sweet milk and gin to make sky juice. Bahamian cuisine offers a range of other cocktails, including Bahama Mama Rum Punch, Goombay Smash, Yellow Bird and Planter’s Punch. Beer is also a popular beverage, served cold to dissipate heat.
Each local restaurant will have its own interpretation of Bahamian cuisine. Dishes are seasonal and change throughout the year. It’s part of the fun – every meal is a new adventure in the Bahamas!