Search out schnitzel in Austria, foie gras in France and mole-sauced meats in Mexico. In the Caribbean, it’s conch and other seafood dishes that are a must as menu selections. Here are the favorite ten top Caribbean Seafood Dishes to try:
1. Cracked Conch
Battered, deep fried meat of this large sea snail is typically served with sides such as peas and rice, coleslaw and macaroni and cheese. The crisp outer coating makes the firm flesh of the conch inside seem even softer. Most local restaurants or toes-in-the-sand open air beach bars serve this signature dish on an everyday basis. You can also taste-sample conch in fritters, stewed in a thick tomato-based sauce and in a salad like ceviche.
2. Ackee and Saltfish
This dish is Jamaica’s answer to a hearty breakfast or light dinner. Salted fish, usually cod, is soaked overnight to remove excess salt. Then, its sautéed with onions, tomatoes, fiery scotch bonnet peppers and ackee. Ackee, a native of West Africa that the infamous Captain Bligh brought to the island in the early 1700s, is poisonous when eaten raw. However, after boiling 30 minutes, it becomes safe as well as nutritious, proving vitamin A, zinc and essential fatty acids. Ackee and Saltfish is often served with another Bligh import, breadfruit.
Say this word to a taxi driver in Puerto Rico and you’ll see a huge smile spread across their face, hear a gustatory baritone of the dish’s pronunciation and find the driver eager to take you to the place they think makes the best. In its simplicity, mofongo is prepared from green plantains that are fried, mashed with salt, garlic, oil and pork cracklings or crumbled bacon and then rolled into a ball. Seafood can be tucked inside or better yet you may find perfectly cooked tail of shrimp on top. Restaurants in the town of Luquillo, near Fajardo, make excellent Mofongo.
This Old Year’s Night favorite in the U.S. Virgin Islands is now a weekly staple at many local restaurants and food trucks. Fish, crab and conch combine with salted pork or salted beef and a variety of greens like spinach, okra and herbs in this soupy-stew. Typically served with a scoop of cornmeal polenta-like fungi. If you don’t see Kallaloo on the menu, just ask what day it’s served.
5. Anegada Lobster
The sweet meat from this undersea crustacean’s tail (no claws on these critters) is so popular there’s a two-day festival devoted to it each November on the British Virgin Island of Anegada. You don’t have to wait until this annual occasion to sample some. Every restaurant on the island serves its local lobster year-round. The most popular preparation style is grilled with garlic butter.
6. Conch & Dumplings
Carnival time in St. Maarten in late April is a good time to try the island’s signature dish of conch and dumplings. What makes this entrée so scrumptious is that the conch is pressure cooked until butter soft, then stirred into a thick gravy-like sauce that also surrounds the dense flour dumplings. Private Chef Jewel LaPlante is well-known for her rendition of this recipe. There are also a few local restaurants on the French side of the island that serve up this dish on a regular basis.
7. Antiguan Breakfast
Salted fish, typically cod sautéed with onions and peppers, star in this traditional wake up meal. Other ingredients in this merry cook-up include avocado, plantain, a hard-cooked egg and ‘chop-up’, a combination of cooked veggies that includes okra, eggplant and spinach. This dish is famously served at the Captain’s Quarter’s Restaurant, at the Catamaran Marina in Falmouth Harbour.
8. Bajan Flying Fish
This herring-sized fish, known for its ability to swim fast and ‘fly’ out of the water, is such a signature delicacy that it’s likeness is imprinted on the island’s one dollar coin. Plus, Cou-Cou and Flying Fish is the national dish. It’s a recipe where the fish is rolled into two-bite sized pieces, simmered with a spicy tomato-based sauce and served next to a mashed potato-like mix of cooked cornmeal flecked with okra. Another popular choice is Flying Fish and Chips, or fried potatoes.
9. Keshi Yena
Red snapper and Keshi Yena, or stuffed cheese, are neck-and-neck favorites on Curaçao. The latter has its roots in the large round Edam or Gouda cheeses favored by the early Dutch plantation owners. Today, just about anything, including seafood, makes a delicious fixing in this stuffed cheese casserole. Other savory and sweet ingredients include capers, scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, parsley, onions, soy sauce, ketchup and raisins.
10. Sere or Seree
This native dish of Western Caribbean country, Belize, is a real rib-sticker. Snapper, usually red or yellowtail, is stirred into a spicy soup flavored with coconut milk. Plantain and root vegetables like cassava, yam or sweet potatoes makes this stew-like soup a full meal. Look for the real deal at local restaurants.