Conch: It’s What’s For Dinner

I’ve always known conch as those pretty pink and peach shells that decorate my grandmother’s home in Florida. It turns out that they aren’t just good for decoration, though. In the Caribbean, conch is served up in just about any way imaginable and plays a delicious part in many meals.

On Grand Turk, I had the chance to visit a conch farm, where conch are actually raised and bred for food. They start out as itty-bitty microscopic bits that can live to be a whopping 20 years in captivity. The larger conchs are heavy and huge, with equally heavy and huge reproductive organs that aren’t so attractive considering the very raw nature of the animal.

Raw is actually one of the ways people enjoy eating conch. I haven’t had a chance to try it in that form, but I can tell you that every other tidbit of conch I’ve tossed in my mouth has been delicious.

I was first introduced to conch as a food in Honduras, where I ate conch fritters as an appetizer for dinner. As I started hopping across the Caribbean over the course of the next few months, I realized that this wasn’t anything unique. In fact, conch appears in many meals. On Grand Turk, for example, I sampled a delicious conch chowder. I also tried a different type of conch fritter; this one was less like calamari and more spicy than the one I ate in Honduras.

Upon returning home, I was flipping through a magazine about Turks and Caicos when I came upon a single page that mentioned all the ways conch is prepared on the islands. The list contains 45 items and sounds something like the Forrest Gump spiel about shrimp when read aloud.

It includes conch soft tacos, conch salad, conch wrap, conch chowder, conch pizza, conch penne, conch quesadillas and conch bruschetta.

You can order your conch steamed, smoked, jerked, rolled, spicy, raw and cracked.

It is served encrusted, with curry, wrapped in wonton skins and with sauce.

You can even order a conch martini.

I will never, ever look at my grandmother’s decorating choices the same way.

Living conch photo taken by me; conch feast photo courtesy of Tom Plant.

17 Responses to “Conch: It’s What’s For Dinner”

  1. James Schipper

    I just ate, but now I’m hungry again. I grew up on the west coast, and had never heard of eating conch until coming to Florida 5 years or so. Now I can’t get enough 🙂

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Do you have a favorite way of preparing conch? I’ve only had it a few ways (and definitely not martini style), and I’ve liked it every ways I’ve tried it.

      Reply
    • James Schipper

      I’ve had conch chowder, conch fritters, and I think a sandwich so far. Not sure I could even try it raw…but I do like sushi. It just looks so…ucky 🙂

      Reply
      • JoAnna

        I’m not a sushi fan myself, though I do like raw shrimp. I’d probably have to see raw conch in edible form to decide if it’s something I could eat.

        Reply
  2. Gray

    Wow, I really wish I hadn’t seen that picture of the live conch. Looks like an alien from a horror movie. 🙂

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Yeah, it looks pretty nasty, but if you’re at all a fan of seafood, I think you’d like it.

      Reply
  3. Christine

    I had no idea that conch was anything other than a pretty shell used for decoration! If I ever end up in the Carribean, I’ll certainly try it out–although I don’t think I can’t quite manage a conch martini after seeing the picture of a raw conch!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I suggest you try the conch fritters. It’s a pretty low-key appetizer that can roughly be compared to calamari.

      Reply
  4. Candice

    Errrrrr does it look that way when it’s cooked?

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      No. Usually it’s battered or cut up. It’s sort of looks like cooked shrimp.

      I know, when it’s raw it’s a little weird.

      Reply
  5. marta

    i have to say i love sushi but this thing looks a bit to slimy for my taste to eat it raw

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Agree. It would definitely be tough to get it down raw.

      Reply
  6. Migrationo Mark

    I’ve never had the privilege of eating conch, but those dishes you mentioned especially eating it raw and spicy or in the form of conch chowder sounds amazing!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I LOVED conch chowder. Very tasty and highly recommended!

      Reply
  7. Abbie

    Last I heard, conchs were endangered and you couldn’t even take their shells – I’m assuming this has changed, but did you hear anything about it in your travels/tastings?

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Hmmm … I haven’t heard anything about that, Abbie. Conch has been super popular in most of Caribbean destinations I’ve been to, so I’m surprised that hasn’t come up in conversation at all. I’ll ask when I’m in the islands next.

      Reply
    • Abbie

      Maybe it was just in Florida, and it was several years ago, so it could be old news!

      Reply

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