Earlier this year, I wrote about traveling to Grand Cayman and enjoying my first taste of turtle. Predictably, this was not one of our more popular posts. Reader responses generally ranged from outrage to disappointment. Turtles are cute and endangered; how can anyone think of eating them?
I can see where my detractors were coming from (though most ignored the conservation side of the story), but I’m wondering how these same people will feel about the subject of today’s Taste of the Caribbean: the regal, if not ravenous Queen Conch.
The slimy sea-dweller with the swanky shell is on most every menu up and down the Caribbean archipelago, prepared in as many styles as Bubba boasts for shrimp. They’re also disappearing at an alarming rate.
During my childhood years in St. Croix, I remember scores of conch being easy to find in the shallow, protected waters off the island’s southeastern shore. These days they’re pretty scarce across much of the USVI, even with the recent series of limits put in place to combat overfishing.
Other Caribbean countries aren’t immune to the overfishing problem either. The U.S. has banned conch importation from a number of Caribbean countries in recent years, while in The Bahamas, where Queen Conch is King, the monarch’s powers are less than absolute these days.
Maybe the turtles get more/better press.
Maybe cute characters like these guys help.
Or maybe, it’s because Queen Conch looks like this:
Not too terribly appealing, eh?
Queen Conch may not be a looker, but she sure is tasty! Hopefully, organizations like Community Conch will be successful in helping to conserve the Queen Conch population so that we all can eat our fill whenever we’re in the islands. For my part, I can say any visit to The Bahamas without a taste of cracked conch just wouldn’t seem right.
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 cup flour
- Oil for frying
Cracked conch is a fried dish that’s a bit like fried calamari, though much more filling and flavorful. Served with fries, rice and beans, or coleslaw, cracked conch is a hearty meal that’s great for lunch or dinner. Here’s how you make it…
Clean and pound your conch meat with a metal mallet until it’s thin and tender, then slice it into strips. Now grab a bowl and mix together your eggs, condensed milk, salt and pepper. You’ll want to dip your conch strips into the milky mixture one-by-one, ensuring that all areas of the meat are covered. Next, roll each strip in your flour, again ensuring full coverage. Time to fry!
Warm up about a 1/4-inch of cooking oil in your pot. Once it’s hot, start adding your strips of conch. Cook ‘em until they’re a nice light-brown, then fish ‘em out and place them on a dish lined with paper towels to sop up the excess cooking oil. Allow the conch to cool a bit, pair with your choice of side, and serve.
Note: One conch usually provides enough meat for one person. With the ingredients here, you should be able to prep and fry five or six decent-sized conch.