Sun, sand, the beach and …
conch fritters in Turks & Caicos
Conch fritters are the must-have snack of Turks & Caicos, a gloriously sun drenched paradise of beach resorts in the Caribbean.
Travel has been good for my palate – it has encouraged me to taste unique local cuisine and expanded my kitchen cupboards with savoury and sweet ingredients from my trips. Now I expect every trip to reveal a new culinary discovery.
Within hours of arrival on the sunny Turks & Caicos isle of Providenciales, I was seated for lunch at the Ocean Club’s Cabana Bar, with a cold Turk’s Head beer quickly placed in hand. Looking at the menu and sensing my indecision, the server suggested conch fritters.
The daily snack option for islanders and visitors, conch fritters are made from the meat of a conch, mixed with cornmeal, onion, peppers and spices. The simplicity of this dish is in its few ingredients, yet every family’s recipe for conch fritters is a closely guarded secret.
As I tasted my first conch fritters at the Cabana Bar, I first smelled the spicy aroma of the fritter which was crunchy with a chili and salty aftertaste. I decided my taste challenge for the trip would be to try fritters at as many places as I could.
My next tasting was at Da Conch Shack, a rum beach bar, where colourful tables are sunk in the sand, mere feet from the water’s edge. I noticed every occupied table had a basket of fritters – I ordered quickly to start my comparison.
Da Conch Shack’s fritters were slightly smaller, crispier and spicier, less salty and accompanied by a locally-made hot sauce. The combination encouraged my continuous sampling, and I vowed this was my favourite.
But another contender came to challenge my choice, with my next day’s lunch spent at the Seaside Café at Ocean Club West. The fritters arrived hot out of the deep fryer, with a crisp exterior and a moist interior. The balance of spices was flavourful and with a spicy aftertaste, I was hooked again to continue sampling.
How was I to choose a favourite? Did I return to each spot and try the fritters again? Did I keep searching for new places to try? Or did I hope that someone’s aunt, grandmother or sister would gift me with a taste of their secret recipe?
I decided I couldn’t declare a winner, a favourite or pick just one – each restaurant proudly offered up its best. So for my next visit, I’m committed to keep sampling conch fritters in my pursuit of finding the perfect seafood snack.