Mock Conch Salad-When you ain't got no conchs!
A New Shrimp Salad
A Fresh Caribbean Delight
I have been fortunate to have been able to spend extended period of time in Nassau, Bahamas for work(Flipper and Into the Blue). One of my all time favorite foods is Conch Salad. Its a simple mixture of fresh conch, bell pepper, onions, hot pepper, tomato and orange and lime juice with some salt added. Its refreshing and delicious.
In the truest sense, Conch Salad is nothing more than a simple ceviche. People freak out when something is "cooked" in citrus juice. The key to a good ceviche is FRESH seafood. In Nassau at a place called Arawak Cay(Fish Fry), fresh conch salad is made to order--some sweet(more orange juice), some sour(more lime juice), hot(with chile), salty, etc. On my first visit(1996) there was nothing more than a loose collection of brightly colored shacks. Ingredients were in plain sight. The conch was kept alive in mesh bags in the canal behind the shack. There was little or no electricity as everything was made fresh to order. On my most recent visit (2003), the shacks had grown into two story buildings offering fully cooked meals. The better places often have a little shed where fresh conch salad is still made to order and you can hear and see the chopping of the tough conch.
However, it is very difficult to find good Conch Salad outside of the Bahamas. I thought about it a lot. Here in Charleston, we have nearly all the ingredients, but conch is hard to come by. I decided to substitute SHRIMP for conch. Now...we have, in my opinion, the best shrimp on the planet. Perhaps it is because we can get it just hours fresh from places like Magwoods or another local shrimper. None the less it makes for great Conch Salad. Now I have tried it with raw shrimp and its quite good, but very slightly cooked shrimp makes it great. Here are the ingredients. I'll not be specific on the amounts, since this recipe varies on the individual taste
Cooked Shrimp-chopped into 1/3 inch pieces
bell pepper, green and any other color chopped
onion chopped(sweet onion when available
fresh hot pepper minced
lime or orange juice(or sour orange)
Mix all the ingredients to your liking and its best to eat it right away or freshly chilled. The citrus juice and the salt pull moisture from the shrimp and the vegetables and makes for a delicious liquor that is not to be discarded.