Fish Fry Nassau Style
The adventurous traveler knows that no two vacations should ever be exactly alike. Some people will prefer a tranquil stay by the ocean while others are eager to immerse themselves in the local culture. Fortunately, the options for dining in The Bahamas can accommodate both the footloose and formal vacationer.
While restaurants in The Bahamas can range from casual vendor stands to upscale bistros, the legendary island hospitality and delicious cuisine will always stand out.
Cultures in the Caribbean are like unique, homemade stews cooked from a mixture of influences. People from far-flung parts of the world who have endured hundreds of years of migration, slavery, exploration and colonization now happily call the Caribbean home. Many such experiences have guided the history and culture of the people of The Bahamas, creating a friendly and celebratory group of people who are proud of their cultural heritage. Today, this cultural heritage can be seen in the way we prepare our meals.
Heritage Village is the scene of the “fish fry”, a venue featuring plenty of down-home island cooking and local entertainment. It is where the locals go to eat fresh seafood that has just been captured from the waters off shore.
Heritage Village is one of the best places to knock back a Kalik beer, chat with the locals, or sample traditional Bahamian cuisine and cultural goodies in an informal atmosphere. The ambience is further enhanced by the scent of sea breeze and the cooing of the seagulls nearby.
A fish fry is a Bahamian version of a seafood festival, similar to a Bahamian backyard experience.
What began back in the 1960’s as a few ramshackle huts hastily constructed to serve quick meals to folks on their way to and from the old Bahamas Customs facility, is today a thriving Bahamian business community. Stalls now number close to forty and they are considerably better built.
The food continues to be as close to home-made as you can find.
Centrally located, 5 minutes west of the downtown shopping district and just north of the Hanes Oval Cricket Pitch and Adastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center, the pastel colored clapboard style buildings are situated on an inlet overlooking the Nassau Harbour and Paradise Island, home of the Atlantis Resort. Fish and conch are the featured options and can be prepared in many different ways.
For example, there is grilled conch, fried or cracked conch, conch chowder, conch fritters and the all time favorite, conch salad. This is a spicy mixture of chopped conch mixed with diced onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, hot peppers in a lime and orange marinade. Just watching the expert chopping of the ingredients is a show as good as any in town. The choicest of the islands fish, grouper or snapper, are served fried, steamed or grilled.
Meals are typically served with peas and rice, French fries, potato salad, Cole slaw, Bahamian macaroni and cheese and fried plantains. For desert there is guava duff, a local favorite and a Bahamian delight. Guava Duff is a steamed pudding made from dough with guava slices jelly rolled, wrapped in cloth and steamed for several hours to give a light, fluffy texture. The finishing touch is a sauce made from the strained guava pulp and flavored to taste with rum, vanilla or confectionary sugar. The guava fruit is available year round, but is most plentiful during the summer months. ; These meals may be prepared for dining in or take out.
To wash it all down, try our locally brewed beer, Kalik named after the sound of Junkanoo cowbells or Sky Juice, a potent gin and coconut water concoction with condensed milk added as flavoring.
The site has a Police Station, a story telling porch and a rock-oven commonly used on the Family Islands for baking. There is a village green where festivals, cultural events and concerts are held.
A Junkanoo “rush-out” is held during the month of June, the purpose of which is to give visitors who are unable to attend during the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations a taste of what the parade is like.
Behind the village is a cay, an artificial island, which was built from sand dredged from the Nassau Harbor. This cay is called Arawak Cay however, the locals have taken to calling the Fish Fry at Heritage Village, Arawak Cay.
While the fish fry is a hot spot, for most tourists and natives alike, one would not be able to find a full compliment of Bahamian cuisine there. A number of native restaurants over-the-hill, on the outskirts of the city of Nassau and in the Adelaide Village are options and would be well worth the further inland trek.
Under Da’ Bridge
You keep getting this feeling that you can’t quite define. You’ve been on vacation in Nassau/Paradise Island for the past three or four days. You’ve been having nothing short of a great time! Wonderful beaches, excellent duty free shopping, unforgettable water sports, casinos and night life, you’ve sampled it all. But there’s still this lingering feeling that you’ve missed out on something. Your sixth sense is always right! There is an experience —a truly authentically Bahamian experience — that has eluded you until now.
Tucked away, under a bridge, in the shadow of the towers of world famous Paradise Island Atlantis Resort is Potter’s Cay. Potter’s Cay is a place you could easily bypass. Several yards east of the first bridge to Paradise Island, on East Bay Street, just before the second bridge, the sign on the far left, “To Potter’s Cay”” ushers you into a hub of activity that will surprise you by its contrast to what you’ve seen thus far of Nassau/Paradise Island.
The half square mile area under the foot of the bridge for traffic exiting Paradise Island is the world of Potter’s Cay. This is where Bahamians come to buy seafood from the day’s catch or to select the freshest in produce from stalls piled high with fruits and vegetables of every color and description. On the eastern water front of this market place, mail boats disgorge a steady stream of passengers and freight from the far flung islands of the Bahamian archipelago. Potter’s Cay is a beehive of activity but it is mostly a place to hang out and enjoy good, down home Bahamian food.
The aromas that greet you as you enter Potter’s Cay signal that you’re in for a culinary treat. Lining the western water front is a row of about twenty wooden food and fish stalls. Stalls vary in size; from small take-away stands operated by a sole vendor to outfits with interiors large enough for a kitchen serving a full course menu.
At the stalls of Potter’s Cay, fresh seafood is king. Conch, the Bahamian mollusk, is served in all its variations. Cut in strips and seasoned with salt, red pepper and lime juice as Scorched Conch. Diced and mixed in with onions, sweet pepper and celery and drenched in lime juice as Conch Salad. Pounded, lathered in egg & flour mix and deep fried as Cracked Conch. Mixed in spicy herbed batter, and deep fried in balls, Conch Fritters. There’s grilled conch, steamed conch and conch chowder. Fish and lobster – fried, steamed or grilled – are two other seafood items big on the Potter’s Cay menu. The choice of side orders include hearty servings of savoury peas & rice, macaroni & cheese, fried plantains, Cole slaw, lettuce & tomatoes or Bahamian bread called Johnny cake.
At Potter’s Cay, there’s take-away, but to really savour the ambiance of this sea-side food village, you need to take a seat. Along the concrete sidewalk that stretches the entire length of the row of shacks, every few paces, there are clusters of tables and chairs. Nothing fancy. A wooden or plastic table with seating for four or six, in the warm sunshine refreshed with light breezes wafting in from the surrounding sea.
Visitors to Potter’s Cay will not be impressed by any physical installation. The wooden construction of most stalls is fairly rudimentary. The facades of many are freshly painted and tiled. Some are roughly hewn, but all are clean and presentable. But very quickly, what becomes more noticeable is the atmosphere of the place. There’s the sunshine, conviviality, good food and a palpable sense of pride exhibited by the food vendors who are all proprietors of their operations. You sense this same pride in the manner in which the food vendor prepares your order. After a few minutes, you begin to feel like an appreciated guest at the table of a good friend.
A stroll along the sidewalk takes you pass an eclectic variety of stalls. Interspersed among the row of stalls serving cooked food are several stands selling fresh fish.
Fresh fish stalls make for an interesting site and contribute to the general “out door” market feel of Potter’s Cay but the food stalls are most memorable.
Once the meal is finished, patrons to the tables of Potter’s Cay need not hurry away. Take some time to walk off a few calories. Just across from the row of food stalls are other sights and sounds that complete the Potter’s Cay experience. Friendly female vendors sit placidly in front of fruit and produce stalls teeming with bananas, plantains, pumpkins, papaya; red peppers, tomatoes, cassava, yam, eddoes. In front of many stalls are cages of swarming black crabs, a popular ingredient in stews, soups and rice. A baked or stuffed crab is another tasty treat of the island. Fishermen in rubber work boots hoist giant bags of fresh fish from the well of fishing smacks anchored dockside. A crowd of local customers close in on a crew of fishermen scaling and cleaning the catch of the day.
Farther along the eastern edge of Potter’s Cay, mail boats identified as the Lady Frances, the Captain Moxey, the Nadine and the Current Express take on freight for islands with quaint sounding names like Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island and Long Island, a few of the many island destinations in the chain of Bahamian islands that beckon for a visit, on your next trip to The Islands Of The Bahamas.