This week I wanted to highlight the regional preparations of conch that we enjoy in Grand Cayman. These dishes are native to other Caribbean islands, but have become a part of our culinary scene too. All of these dishes can be found year round because they don’t require local conch to be made and they tend to be quite popular with tourists, which is why these preparations are found in mainstream restaurants and hotels. Read on to see how conch can be chowdered, frittered, cracked and curried on island and where to find some of these tasty versions.
Restaurants serve conch chowder in one of two ways, ‘red’ or ‘white’. Everyone has a personal preference so it’s quite common for diners to ask what colour the chowder is before they order it. Both styles of chowder always have minced conch, peppers and onions, but the bases differ with ‘white’ having coconut milk and cream whereas the ‘red’ is made with tomatoes. Both versions are delicious if you ask me! A few places you can visit for this comforting dish include roadside stall Jameion’s Jerk M.I.E.E.(Made In East End) for their white conch soup, Macabuca for their white conch chowder or Rackams for their red conch chowder.
Conch fritters may not be a part of Cayman’s heritage, but who doesn’t love a fried snack! This is by far the most popular conch dish you can find on island because they are enjoyed by residents as an appetiser and tend to be the first introduction to conch for tourists. They’re made by folding diced or minced conch into a batter with peppers and onions before being deep fried to golden perfection. Some of the best places for conch fritters and their sauces include Pepper’s and Cayman Cabana with their classic jerk mayo and Lobster Pot with their red pepper remoulade.
Another fried preparation that can be tricky to nail is cracked conch; a pounded out slab of conch that is breaded and fried. Even though the chef will slice it into thinner strips to make it more enjoyable once cooked, you may find this dish can still have a slight chew to it. The more traditional versions can be found at George Town Yacht Club with escovitch mayo and Macabuca with a curried tartar sauce, whereas Anchor & Den at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort currently serves an upscaled version with pico de gallo and curry remoulade.
Curried conch is a dish that can be found primarily in Jamaica and Trinidad, but we do have it here as well. Visit Trinidadian restaurant, Singh’s Roti Shop, in George Town for this flavourful regional dish. You can order it inside of a dhalpourie roti with potatoes or as a plated meal with ‘buss up shut’ (paratha roti) and their selection of sides.
Go out and give some of these regional conch dishes a try at some of Cayman’s best restaurants and let us know what you think!
By Chelsea Tennant
Chelsea Tennant is the blogger behind the popular Cayman Islands blog, Island Epicurean where readers can find a detailed guide to the Cayman Islands’ culinary culture.