Friday, July 5, 2013

Cuisine To Be Proud Of

By  Lisa Roberts

We can be proud of our Bahamian history and culture for many reasons, as our year of 40th independence celebrations is proving. However, one of our finest attributes is our Bahamian cuisine which has played as much of a prominent role in the celebrations as it has at any time throughout our island’s history. Our national cuisine has evolved over the years, absorbing the influences of surrounding countries as well as the new ideas brought to our shores by visitors. The result is a unique and delicious blend of flavors.

Never a dull mouthful

Our Bahamian food, heavily influenced by the American South, is renowned for providing a variety of tastes and for never ever being bland. This is quite an impressive reputation to have built up and one that the island fiercely protects. The standard of food produced in the island’s restaurants and cafes has never been higher. We’ve taken a look at some of our most traditional foods and the best places to sample them in the island.

Seafood delight
The Bahamas are especially suited to seafood lovers. Fresh seafood caught from the clean seas around the Bahamas is available all around the island. Traditionally seafood was popular in the island due to its ready availability and historically it was a cheap food source. It is still readily available today and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike as some of the best seafood to be found in the Caribbean, and still at a very affordable price.

One of our most famous delicacies is the conch. For those of you who don’t know of it, it is a mollusk with very tender white meat which can either be transformed into delicious stews, chowders, salad, scorched or into the very popular deep-fried conch fritters. Fresh uncooked conch is also delicious and is often scored with a knife and served with lime juice and spices. For some of the best ‘cracked’ (deep-fried) conch check out Oh Andros in Nassau. The building itself is pretty average but the food is incredible.

Grouper is another popular dish. The mild flavored, white flaky fish has become somewhat of a staple food in the island. It is usually served boiled with homemade bread or grits, and spiced rice and vegetables, producing an incredibly tasty meal. For brilliant local seafood try the Poop Deck in Nassau.

Rock lobster (a spiny lobster with no claw) is another Bahamian favorite. It is found in many other countries but prepared in a totally unique and delicious way here in the Bahamas. Unlike lobster served elsewhere in the world it is not usually eaten as a meal on its own, but added as a key ingredient to soups, salads or stews. Some of the best rock lobster to be found in the Bahamas can be in the form of backstreet take-away food. They might not look great at first appearances, but the fact that the locals choose to eat at them speaks volumes, and the food is without exception fantastic, not to mention affordable. These smaller establishments are simple and compact and don’t always have the ability to take payment by card, so make sure you have local cash to hand so you don’t miss out on this fantastic and tasty local food. Claudette’s Native Food has had some great reviews, and being a ‘truck restaurant’ is the perfect example of how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!

Peas aplenty
Peas are a very popular addition to many Bahamian recipes. Many dishes are accompanied by pigeon peas and rice, the infamous ‘peas ‘n’ rice’ served through much of the Caribbean. They are often flavored with herbs and spices making a flavorsome side dish.

Soup satisfaction

Soup was also historically popular with islanders due to its low-cost ingredients. Peas are once again a popular addition to Bahamian soups. Pea soup with dumplings and salt beef is a popular choice, as is split pea and ham soup. A soup which is only found in the Caribbean and the Bahamas is the souse (pronounced ‘sowse’). It is a very basic recipe made from just water, onions, lime juice, celery, peppers and meat (usually sheep’s tongue, chicken, oxtail or pig’s feet) with no thickeners added. This is a delicious soup that is rich in flavors, and it usually provides a completely new experience for visitors to the area. The Soup CafĂ© in Nassua offers a fantastic range of local soups as well as other lunchtime foods and snacks.

Add a bit of spice

As a region with a reputation for providing spicy and flavorsome food, it is hardly surprising to hear that the fire-hot Bahamian bird pepper is a widely used ingredient. Its uses vary from being added to fresh conch, boiled fish, meat marinades to spicy salsas. You will probably find it being used in all of the establishments mentioned above.

Food and celebrations in style

The recent Festival of the Bahama Islands held in the Botanical Gardens in Nassau was a fine example of fantastic Bahamian cuisine. Lets keep celebrating our independence and fine cultural heritage in style!