The Bahamian Conch
with Conch Salad Recipe
(Scungilli Salad Recipe*)
From Sandy Estabrook's Guide to the Abacos, Bahamas
A little about Queen Conch. This common mollusk is nothing more than a slow-moving long-lived marine snail. Another description says; Conch a gastropod, a soft-bodied type of mollusk that is protected by a very hard shell. This invertebrate (animal without a backbone) is found in warm shallow waters in grass beds. Conchs are eaten by many animals, including rays and people. The beautiful shell, often lined in pink, once cleaned and polished is collected and or used for jewelry. The shell can be up to 1 foot (30 cm) long. The lip of the shell is flared with spiny ridges to deter its many predators.
The queen conch (pronounced "konk") is the most common conch in Bahamian waters but severely depleted from over harvesting in recent times. In that regard, the Bahamian Government has had a major overhaul in their fishing regulations including conch. Conch: The Queen Conch is considered an endangered species throughout much of the wider Caribbean, including The Bahamas. In an effort to ensure the continued sustainability of local conch stocks, the harvesting of the species by foreigners is limited to ten conch per visit.
Still, Because of the continuing, near dramatic depletion throughout Abaco,
Bahamian conch populations are now in danger of collapsing Ð as they already have elsewhere (Fla. Keys). In 2012 new emphasis was put on conservation tightening measures even furthure spurred on by the Community Conch Org with the help of a great new "Get the word out" Video available to anybody. They just want their message out there and it is here on our Video Page.
In hind sight, a similar event took place in the Florida Keys. Due to overfishing, commercial harvest had been drastically limited since 1978. But by 1985, it was apparent that the breeding population of conch had been nearly wiped out and recreational fishing was also closed. Hopefully because of the conch's five year breeding cycle this wont happen in the Bahamas.
Fortunately, the good news is, this will have little impact on the casual Abaco visitor. Conch is readily available throughout Abaco for local consumption.
Being in the mollusk family, the conch like oysters, produces pearls which frequently comes as a surprise to most folks. Often the meat is removed from the shell, cut and trimmed without examining the remains for pearls. Shown is a picture of such beautiful pearls. When in Marsh Harbour, stop by the Conch Pearl Galleries. You'll find jewelry made of conch pearls along with other local arts and crafts.
Eating Conch/In the Bahamas Conch is generally served five ways, conch fritters, cracked conch, and conch burgers, all of which are fried. The two non fried items are conch chowder and conch salad. Many small grocery stores have cups of conch salad out on their counters in the morning which are gone by noon. It's served in a plastic cup with a spoon like a dixie cup. Each vendor has their own way of making their marinade for this delicacy. Want to know more?
One of my favorite things to do in the Abacos, is sampling the Conch Salad. It is this mans very favorite food in the Bahamas. It's refreshing, non fattening and tasty. The prime ingredients are conch (obviously) tomato, onion, celery, cucumber and sometimes Green Pepper. To this they add a little line or sometimes orange juice, plus for spice worcestershire and or tabasco sauce. It's all finely chopped up and served in a cup with a spoon. It's better than Ice cream. Each vendor or shop makes it their own way and likewise each varies slightly in taste from one to another. One of my favorite spots is the street vendor you will see just a few hundred feet to your right when leaving the Conch Inn and just past and next to Mangoes Restaurant in Marsh Harbour. His stand that has been there for years. Get your self a pint. It's also sold in the New Plymouth markets and usually off the shelves by mid morning. We've found only two restaurants that have this as a regular item on the menu: The Wrecking Tree on Green Turtle and the Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay (dinner only). I'm sure there are others too. The Great Conch Race Video
Sandy's Conch / Scungilli Salad Recipe
Chop into 1/2 - 3/4 inch pieces, Combine Conch and Onion with all condiments listed. Stir well. If you have time let sit for 3-4 hours before adding the remaining Vegetables and stir again. Keep refrigerated. Conch Salad always tastes better the second day and keeps for 4 to 5.
Cool and refreshing. Serve for lunch or in place of any cold soup like gazpacho or as a before dinner salad.
Makes 8-10 servings
1 lb Conch Meat
Chop 1 Large Onion
Chop 1 Large Green Pepper
Chop 2, 8 inch Celery stalks
Peeled and Chop Half Cucumber
Chop 2 Large Tomatoes
2 Ounces Lime Juice
2 Ounces Wine Vinegar
1 Ounce Olive Oil (optional)
One Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
Half Teaspoon salt
Quarter Teaspoon pepper
Spice up with of Hot Pepper Sauce to your liking.
A little bit more or less of any ingredient is OK - Amounts are approximate.
Note: It is sometimes recommended that conch be pounded prior to preparation. Large pieces for cooking cracked conch, yes, but since is being cut to 1/4 inch pieces this writer finds it completely unnecessary. Conch is shipped to the US fish markets frozen, and in most cases, the freezing / thawing process usually takes the place of the pounding of the Conch.
If you live in the northeast or near a large metropolitan area where conch is not available use its northern cousin the Whelk, commonly called scungilli. It's found in fish markets especially where there is an Italian clientele. Don't let its darker color deter you as it will turn white in the marinade and it will taste no different. I can attest to that.
Food, Drink and the Goombay Smash
Conch Salad at the Bahama Beach Club - Treasure Cay.
Kalik too or....
Why not complment your Conch Salad with a
Motu Iti Cocktail
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