If you are a health nut and an overly conscious eater then we might not get along on a trip. I indulge, tastefully, and in moderation, in foods while visiting places that are new. So, there is a bit of a raised eyebrow for the person who travels all the way out the country to order the same old, same old. Like music and dance, food is another way to connect with people and I respect it immensely. I am still a picky eater at times though. There are some things that are probably always going to make my blood crawl and I’ll stay away from, but I haven’t had to say no to anything crazy just yet.
My dish of choice, if I could have it once a week would be conch in butter sauce, seasoned rice, breadfruit or caribbean sweet potato or green bananas, and salad. The dish is a local dish in St. Croix, USVI, but it is served in variations throughout the Caribbean. I had some in Haiti this summer at the MUPANAH restaurant and it was served on a bed of rice and peas and accented with pumpkin and avocado puree as a garnish. Conch, if you are a true West Indian and from the Caribbean will be on most menus and it’s the escargot of the region. You can get it sautéed in different sauces, made in a baked or fried pâté, or fried into conch fritters, but it is one of those dishes I personally love.
The men who dive to get the conch from the ocean are skilled and have made a living off of deep see diving and spear fishing. You’ll see them by the local fish market on the island in droves with coolers filled with the days fresh catch and sometimes if it’s in season you will get to buy conch. By the end of the day if their coolers are still filled they’ll drive through communities screaming “carrucho, carrucho, fresh conch,” at least this was the case in St. Croix. St. Croix, being American Territory also has a lot of Spanish speakers from Puerto Rico, which is an hour flight away, hence my knowledge of the Spanish name for conch, “Carrucho”. Unless your skilled in cooking conch you want to have it prepared by a local or a restaurant. There’s a part where even after you have cleaned the conch you need to pressure cook it to make the meat soft for chewing and eating; if this isn’t done right the meat will be tough to chew and that’s not conch its more like rubber and you’ll be disappointed as it won’t soak in the flavor of the sauce and seasoning properly.
You can get many different sides with conch, but I like seasoned rice and ground provisions because they balance the taste really well without taking away from the conch and sauce. So, next time your on someone’s Caribbean Island just ask a local to point you in the best direction for conch.