Ten Best Caribbean Seafood Dishes

Look for schnitzel in Austria, foie gras in France and meats in mole sauce in Mexico. In the Caribbean, conch and other seafood dishes are a must on the menu. Here are the ten best Caribbean seafood dishes to try:

1. Cracked Conch

The breaded and fried meat of this large sea snail is usually served with sides such as peas and rice, coleslaw and mac and cheese. The crispy outer coating makes the firm conch flesh inside even sweeter. Most local restaurants or outdoor beach bars serve this signature dish daily. You can also enjoy conch fritters, simmered in a thick tomato-based sauce and in a salad like ceviche.

Cracked Conch, Bahamas. Photo: Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

2. Ace and salt fish

This dish is the Jamaican answer to a hearty breakfast or a light dinner. Salted fish, usually cod, is soaked overnight to remove excess salt. Then it’s sautéed with onions, tomatoes, Scotch bonnet peppers and ackee. Ackee, a West African native that the infamous Captain Bligh brought to the island in the early 1700s, is poisonous when eaten raw. However, after boiling for 30 minutes, it becomes safe and nutritious, proving vitamin A, zinc and essential fatty acids. Ackee and saltfish are often served with another Bligh import, breadfruit.

Acee & Saltfish, Jamaica.  Photo: Jamaica Tourist Board
Acee & Saltfish, Jamaica. Photo: Jamaica Tourist Board

3. Mofongo

Say this word to a taxi driver in Puerto Rico and you’ll see a huge smile spread across his face, hear a gustatory baritone of the pronunciation of the dish, and find the driver eager to take you to the place he thinks is the better. In its simplicity, mofongo is prepared from fried green plantains, mashed with salt, garlic, oil and crumbled pork crackers or bacon then rolled into a ball. Seafood can be tucked inside, or better yet, you can find a perfectly cooked prawn tail on top. The restaurants in the town of Luquillo, near Fajardo, make excellent Mofongo.

Shrimp & Mofongo, Puerto Rico.  Photo: Dean Barnes
Shrimp & Mofongo, Puerto Rico. Photo: Dean Barnes

4. Kallaloo

This New Year’s Eve favorite in the US Virgin Islands is now a weekly staple at many local restaurants and food trucks. Fish, crab, and conch combine with corned pork or corned beef and a variety of green vegetables like spinach, okra, and herbs in this soup stew. Typically served with a ball of mushrooms resembling cornmeal polenta. If you don’t see Kallaloo on the menu, just ask what day it’s served.

Caribbean seafood dishes
Kallaloo, USVI. Photo: Dean Barnes

5. Lobster Anegada

The sweet meat from the tail of this underwater crustacean (no claws on these creatures) is so popular that a two-day festival is held for it every November on the British virgin island of Anegada. You don’t have to wait for this annual occasion to taste it. Each restaurant on the island serves its local lobster all year round. The most popular style of preparation is grilled with garlic butter.

Anegada Lobster
Anegada Lobster

6. Conch and dumplings

Carnival time in St. Maarten in late April is a good time to try the island’s signature dish of conch and dumplings. What makes this starter so scrumptious is that the conch is pressure cooked until the butter softens, then tossed in a thick, gravy-like sauce that also surrounds the dense flour dumplings. Private chef Jewel LaPlante is well known for her interpretation of this recipe. There are also a few local restaurants on the French side of the island that regularly serve this dish.

Conch & Dumplings, St. Maarten.  Photo: Saint-Martin Tourist Office
Conch & Dumplings, St. Maarten. Photo: Saint-Martin Tourist Office

7. Antiguan Breakfast

Salt fish, typically cod sautéed with onions and peppers, is the star of this traditional wake-up meal. Other ingredients in this joyful concoction include avocado, plantain, hard-boiled egg and chop-up, a combination of cooked vegetables including okra, eggplant and spinach. This dish is famous for being served at Captain’s Quarter’s Restaurant at the Catamaran Marina in Falmouth Harbour.

Traditional Antiguan breakfast with salt fish.  Photo: Antigua-Barbuda Food Guide www.foodanddrink-antigua.com
Traditional Antiguan breakfast with salt fish. Photo: Antigua-Barbuda Food Guide www.foodanddrink-antigua.com

8. Bajan flying fish

This herring-sized fish, known for its ability to swim quickly and “fly” out of water, is such a distinctive delicacy that its likeness is imprinted on the island’s one dollar coin. Additionally, Cou-Cou and Flying Fish is the national dish. This is a recipe where the fish is rolled into two-bite-sized pieces, simmered with a spicy tomato-based sauce, and served alongside a mixture of cooked cornmeal mashed potatoes sprinkled with okra. . Another popular choice is Flying Fish and Chips, or Fried Potatoes.

Flying Fish, Barbados.  Photo: Barbados Tourism Board
Flying Fish, Barbados. Photo: Barbados Tourism Board

9. Keshi Yena

Red snapper and Keshi Yena, or stuffed cheese, are neck and neck favorites in Curacao. The latter has its roots in the large round Edam or Gouda cheeses enjoyed by early Dutch plantation owners. Today, just about anything, including seafood, makes a delicious filling in this stuffed cheese casserole. Other savory and sweet ingredients include capers, scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, parsley, onions, soy sauce, ketchup, and raisins.

Keshi Yena, Curacao.  Photo: Curacao Tourist Board
Keshi Yena, Curacao. Photo: Curacao Tourist Board

10. Sere or Seree

This dish native to the western Caribbean country of Belize is a real rib-sticker. Snapper, usually red or yellowtail, is mixed with a spicy soup flavored with coconut milk. Plantain and root vegetables like cassava, yams or sweet potatoes make this stew-like soup a complete meal. Look for the real deal at local restaurants.

Caribbean seafood dishes
Sere, Belize. Photo: Belize Tourism Board


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Dino S. Williams