Since we covered Bahamian libations in our previous post, we would be doing a disservice not to talk about the local food. Bouncing from bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant is one of THE BEST experiences during a vacation to Exuma. After all, there’s only one road which makes the crawl up and down the island a cinch! Meeting locals and tasting food along the way is an experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Promise. But the local fare may have some of you scratching your heads, so let’s cover the basics so you know what you’re getting into when you arrive on the island.
Peas N Rice – This is a signature side dish that is a basic mixture of white rice (that appears brown after it's cooked with spices) and pigeon peas amongst a few other seasonings and ingredients. Pigeon peas are similar to a black-eyed pea, but black. The dish doesn’t have a strong flavor but is a great filler to eat with any side of meat or fish.
Cracked Conch/Fish/Lobster – Cracked simply means fried. Now you know!
Mac N Cheese – It’s not what you might think. Instead of the using macaroni noodles and cheese, this type is layered lasagna style in a casserole pan and baked. Depending on the cook, it can range from bland to very flavorful and from dry to dripping in cheese. It’s an island favorite and ours as well.
Coleslaw – This is one of Exuma’s “healthier” sides. But the standard coleslaw here is sweet (vice vinegar based). Hint: The best coleslaw on the island is at Chat N Chill and don’t even try to get the recipe. You’ll be trying for a long time!
Conch Salad – Conch (pronounced konk) is the local favorite and most common seafood you’ll find around the island. Bottom line, it’s a big snail that is eaten both raw or fried. Conch salad is an extremely popular appetizer/meal for many locals and tourists and is typically made to order right from the shell and right out of the ocean. A little tomato, onion, orange juice, lime juice, peppers, and you’ll have the freshest (and healthiest) meal you can get in Exuma. Think ceviche.
Conch Fritters – This time, the conch is diced into small pieces and mixed into a dough, formed into balls, deep fried, and served with a dipping sauce. Sooooo delicious. Soooooo not healthy. But hey, it’s vacation!
Crab N Rice – Similar to peas n rice but cooked with land crab (the whole crab, shell and all). If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing one of these dinosaurs in person, we hope you get to. Many locals will catch these godzillas by hand, put them in a cage, and feed them scraps until they’re big enough to eat. It gives the peas n rice an amazing flavor. Highly recommended if you stumble upon this option.
Snack – You’ll see a lot of menus that offer Grouper Snack or Group Dinner, for example. Snack just means without sides. The dinner would come with sides.
Souse – Hot soup probably doesn’t sound ideal on a hot, humid island but the locals love it! It’s a brothy soup made with chicken, sheeps tongue, turkey legs, pig feet, or any cheap cuts of meat. It’s stewed with lime juice and seasonings and voila!
There are plenty more local dishes that we didn’t cover here but these will likely be the most common offerings you’ll find throughout the island. And when you do, you’ll come back for more. It's a Bahamian 'ting'.
Check out our curated map and guides of Great and Little Exuma here.