The Top Chef All-Stars finale beginning tonight will be held in the Bahamas. We were just there in January (thanks to a surprise Christmas gift from The Grillmaster). When we saw a preview for the show last week, we both screamed “that’s Arawak Cay!” when we spied Twin Brothers restaurant. Arawak Cay (pronounced “key”) is THE place to go in Nassau for authentic Bahamian food – conch salad, conch fritters, cracked conch, conch chowder, peas & rice, grouper fingers, souse, guava duff, etc. Did I mention that conch is popular there? I will be so disappointed if one of the Top Chef challenges doesn’t involve conch.
The funny thing about Twin Brothers restaurant is that they have marketing down to a science. As we were walking along the street trying to decide which restaurant to visit, a very nice gentleman approached us. He did his best to convince us Twin Brothers was the right place for us. We chatted with him for a while and then decided to see the rest of our options before choosing. We ended up at a place called Goldie’s because it looked like that’s where most of the locals were heading. Twin Brothers seemed to attract mostly tourists.
To get you ready for Top Chef, here’s a quick look at a few traditional Bahamian dishes. A lot of them are fried and I certainly don’t usually recommend eating a lot of fried food. But if you’re there on vacation, it won’t kill you to try a conch fritter.
Conch Salad is a raw salad featuring conch, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, lime juice and hot peppers served over lettuce. If you ever make it over to Long Island (Bahamas, not New York), you’ll get the best conch salad at a place called Max’s Conch Bar & Grill. Here’s a YouTube video of Gary (not Max) making the salad.
This is exactly what you’d expect: conch, flour, veggies and spices ground up and deep-fried. The fritters (pictured above) are usually served with a sauce made of ketchup, mayonnaise and tabasco.
Conch pounded thin, marinated in lime juice, then battered and fried.
This is a tomato-based chowder featuring conch, carrots, peppers, bacon, worcestershire sauce and sherry. Sometimes crushed soda crackers are added as a thickener. This is not a creamy chowder.
Peas & Rice
Think pigeon peas, not green peas. This dish is more like beans and rice in my mind. Basically, you brown onions, salt pork and green peppers, then add tomato paste, spices, pigeon peas and rice and let it cook down.
Imagine chicken fingers made with fresh grouper. The grouper is marinated in lime juice, hot peppers and salt before being dipped in an egg and cream batter and fried.
Souse (rhymes with “house”) is a stew made with meat or chicken, onion, celery, hot peppers, potatoes and allspice. Souse may be made with other proteins as well (pig’s ear, anyone?) and is usually served with Johnny cake.
Duff is a very sweet jellyroll-style cake made with guava that is served warm and topped with a sauce made from brandy, sugar, butter and guava pulp. The one small bite I had was so sweet it put me into orbit. If you order this, make sure you have someone with whom to share it. Better yet, have someone else order it and ask for a bite!
|Arawak Cay, Nassau Bahamas||Peas & Rice||Goldie’s, Arawak Cay, Nassau Bahamas|