Flavors of the Bahamas
You'll find food from all over the world in Nassau and Freeport restaurants, but you'll be missing out if you don't try the local cuisine. There's nothing fancy about Bahamian food, just fresh ingredients and peppery spices you'll remember long after your trip is over.
Breakfasts include hearty eggs, bacon, and pancakes, or Bahamian favorites such as chicken souse, boil' fish, or stew' fish, served with grits and johnnycake. At lunch, you'll likely find variations on a few standards: fresh fish, conch, or chicken sandwiches, or hamburgers sided with french fries, coleslaw, or local favorites like peas 'n' rice or baked macaroni and cheese with jalapeño peppers. At dinner you'll find fish, fried chicken, and pasta.
"Steamed" fish means cooked with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. To get a sense of what the locals eat at home, try ordering any fish prepared "Bahamian style," meaning baked and smothered in tomatoes and spices.
You'll find conch, the unofficial dish of the Bahamas, prepared in a variety of ways, on nearly every menu. The sea snail has a mild flavor and taste and texture similar to calamari. The safest way to ease into conch is conch fritters, tasty fried dough balls packed with chunks of conch. Conch chowder is tomato based; cracked conch is battered and fried; grilled conch is wrapped in a foil packet with lime juice, pepper, onion, tomato, and a bit of butter and cooked on top of the barbecue; and, perhaps the most popular entrée, conch salad is akin to ceviche. Fresh-caught conch is diced and mixed with chopped onions and red or green bell peppers. The mix is drizzled with fresh lime and sour orange juices, and spiced with either homemade hot sauce or finely minced local hot peppers.
This local favorite is similar to English pudding. A guava fruit compote is folded into a sweet dough and wrapped up in aluminum foil, and then steamed or boiled for as long as three hours. It's topped with a sweet rum or brandy sauce.
Despite its name, johnnycake is not actually a dessert but a thick, heavy, slightly sweet bread that's typically served alongside souses, soups, and stews.
Mac 'n' Cheese
If you order a side of macaroni, don't expect anything resembling Kraft mac and cheese. Bahamians bake their macaroni noodles in a mixture of cream, daisy cheese, and butter.
Peas 'n' Rice
This popular side dish is made of white rice cooked with salt pork, thyme, a dab of tomato paste, and fresh or canned pigeon peas.
Given Bahamians' long-standing love affair with rum, it's no surprise that rum cake is an all-time favorite in the islands. Rum is mixed into the batter and then poured in a syrupy glaze over the fresh-out-of-the-oven cake. Don't worry about getting drunk; the alcohol cooks off when it bakes.
Souse, Boil', or Stew'
A peppery bowl of chicken souse or boil' fish—the clear broth has a lime-and-goat-pepper base with pieces of chicken or meaty fish, onions, and potatoes—is an authentic breakfast dish. Variations include pig feet and sheep tongue souse, which are more of an acquired taste. You'll also find stew' fish or conch on most menus. The soup in bowls of stew is a Bahamian variation on the traditional French roux made with flour, water, and browning sauce, and seasoned with pepper and fresh thyme.
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