Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Conch Salad Recipe

Even the queen of fatback needs to eat healthy every now and then, and I can think of no better recipe to satisfy a craving for a flavorful low-fat dish than conch salad.

I first tasted fresh conch (as in pulled straight from the waters in front of you while you stare in complete awe) when my husband and I eloped to the Turks and Caicos islands to get married on the beach at sunset with a couple of witnesses, a minister and a photographer. (I have never been a big wedding kinda gal.) At any rate, we spent one afternoon touring a small conch farm and finished up our day with a lunch of fried conch fritters, lime-enhanced conch salad, and a couple of Heineken's on the beach. It was one of the best meals I ever had, so when I had the opportunity to visit Pink Sands Resort on the small yet mighty Bahamian outcropping known as Harbour Island, Eleuthera, to take a cooking class with the resort's Executive Chef James Van Dyke, I was all over it.

First off, the beaches of Harbour Island are mind-blowingly gorgeous. The water right outside my cottage looked exactly like this. If I recall correctly, when I first stepped out onto this deck, I wept.
Now this is a room with a view.
While one could easily hole up at Pink Sands for at least a month life, any visitor to this friendly island would be remiss if she didn't take a lunchtime stroll to the other side of the island (it's only a half-mile wide) to sample some local street fare. One of my favorite stops along this route was a waterside shack simply known as Queen Conch.
No cars on Harbour Island, so I recommend brushing up on your golf cart driving skills.
Talk about devoting your cooking prowess to one item and making that one dish spectacular. This is what Queen Conch is all about-- conch salad, and doing it up right. Served paper and plastic spork-style at outside tables right along the Harbor, this is probably the best conch salad you'll ever eat.
Rustic, simple and utterly divine, this fresh-from-the-water delicacy made from chopped conch mixed with onions, peppers, lime juice and hot sauce is best washed down with a cold Kalik lager (a Bahamian tradition) which can be conveniently purchased across the street for one whole dollar. As you can see, this is some seriously good gastropod. If you're lucky, while you wait for your salad, you can step around back and witness Queen Conch owner Richard Percentie pull a conch from his underwater cage and literally knock the sweet, white meat (still moving) right out of the shell. Told you it was fresh.
If you want to learn how to make your own conch salad, I highly recommend taking one of Chef Van Dyke's cooking classes at Pink Sands which are offered al fresco overlooking that stunning beach.

Conch salad is super easy to make. The hardest part, at least for us Mid-Atlantic folk, is getting a hold of fresh conch. You can order it online, but alas, it ain't cheap and arrives frozen in large quantities (usually 5 pounds or more). If you plan ahead, you can place an order with your local fishmonger or even go in on a larger order with a couple of friends. However, your best bet is just to pony up the cash and visit the Bahamas firsthand or at least put it on your bucket list.

As you can see from Chef James' recipe below, conch salad is awfully similar to ceviche except instead of fish, scallops or shrimp, your working with tougher conch meat. With this in mind, a nice, flaky whitefish would work very nicely in this dish as would scungilli, whelks or calamari. Just make sure your fish is super fresh and marinate "cook" it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Fresh Briland Conch Salad with Sweet Pepper Confetti
Recipe courtesy Chef James Van Dyke of Pink Sands Resort, Harbour Island, Bahamas
Serves 4

For Salad:
Two freshly cleaned diced conch*, cut into small dice
¼ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
¼ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
½ large tomato, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon Conchy Joes Bahamian Hot Sauce or other favorite hot sauce
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
Pinch of salt and black pepper
4 fresh corn tortillas
Oil, for frying

For Confetti:
½ red bell pepper, seeded
½ green pepper, seeded
One cup ice
½ cup cold water
Pinch of salt


For the salad, add all the salad ingredients into a medium sized bowl through to the hot sauce and then toss to combine. Then, add the fresh lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cut the corn tortillas into triangles.  Gently fry tortillas in hot oil for about 60 seconds or until crispy. Drain and then lightly salt the chips.  Set aside.

For the confetti, cut the peppers into quarters and then lay skin side down on the cutting board. Gently press the peppers flat with the palm of your hand. With your knife held horizontally filet the bell pepper to ½ of its original thickness and discard top layer. Lay the pepper flat on the cutting board and slice paper thin along the grain of the peppers. Put peppers in a medium sized bowl and cover with ice and water. When time to serve, drain peppers and then cut them into a very fine dice.

To serve, place the conch salad into four small serving bowls, martini glasses or coconut shells and garnish with sweet pepper confetti and chips. 

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Pin It Now!


  1. That looks fresh and fabulous--perfect for a hot climate!

  2. Thanks. It's really, really good. Just got to find the conch or substitute another fish or shellfish :)

  3. This looks delicious! We have cooked with conch before, but never in this manner.

  4. If you can get your hands on some decent conch, it's so worth making!

  5. Conch is definitely on my list of things to try, but being in a land-locked state makes it quite difficult!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...