The Bahamas comprise about 700 different islands, so it is not surprising that most Bahamian cuisine comes from the sea. Tropical fruits and legumes are other staples found in the traditionally bright, fresh and flavorful dishes. Spices and seasonings abound in the Bahamas, with local flavors defined by allspice, coconut, chili, cilantro and another local specialty: rum.
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From the Sea
Fish and shellfish make up the mainstay proteins found in Bahamian cuisine. Conch is a local mollusk with firm, white flesh that is found in hundreds of local dishes, including crispy conch fritters, fried conch cutlets, conch chowders and soups, ceviche style -- known locally as "scorched" conch -- and deep fried cracked conch. Other seafood delights include fresh, flaky and sweet grouper, rock lobster, crab and bonefish. Although chowders and stews are the more traditional preparation methods for Bahamian seafood, simple baked or grilled dishes also appear on local menus.
Although not as widely consumed as fish and shellfish, Bahamian cuisine does feature tantalizing meat dishes. Goat meat, commonly referred to on the islands as mutton, is typically stewed, curried or grilled. Chicken is jerked with sweet and savory spices, smoked, grilled and whole roasted for family and neighborhood gatherings. Perhaps the most unique meat found in the Bahamas is iguana, which is still hunted and consumed, although less commonly now that the Bahamian rock iguana is considered endangered.
The Bahamas offer unique fruit favorites such as guineps, hog plums and dillies. Guineps look similar to limes but sport a peach-like flesh with a sweetly tart flavor. Hog plums, also known as spondias, are the fruit of local semi-evergreens and are more like a mango than a plum. The taste is sweet and peach-like with tart orange and plum notes. Dilly fruit, or dillies, are autumnal offerings that are pear-like, with brown sugar notes. Also commonly found are pineapples, bananas and the ubiquitous coconut.
Desserts in the Bahamas are typically fruit-based, and almost always include coconut -- in everything from cakes and tarts to jellies and puddings. Duff, typically made with coconut or guava, is a renowned Bahamian dessert that is most like a rolled sweet bread with fruit filling. Duffs are topped with hard sauce made from sweetened condensed milk, butter, sugar and coconut rum. Other local favorites include coconut custards, fruit and coconut ice creams and rum cakes.
In addition to refreshing fruit juices, coconut water and local punch sodas, the Bahamas offers unique beverages made on the islands. Switcha, a drink made from limes found on the island, water and sugar, is typically served with desserts. Alcoholic options include the national alcoholic beverage of rum, as well as local beers such as Kalik, Bahamian Brewery beers and popular traditional cocktails such as the Yellow Bird, the Bahama Mama and the Goombay Smash.
Unique Regional Cuisine
Johnnycake dates back to the poor farmer settlers of the Bahamas, and has continued to be a regional favorite. This pan-cooked bread consists simply of butter, milk, flour, sugar and salt. Souse is another one-of-a-kind dish, a soup often served as a starter. Souse is made from onions, water, lime juice, peppers and meat. Bahamian "benne" cakes are not cakes as much as candy, made from boiling sesame seeds and sugar cane until it hardens.