Foodbuzz 24×24: CONCH TASTING in Turks & Caicos

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Dear Food Diary:
The best way to enjoy this post: Put on some island music in the background and have a fruity tropical drink, maybe with a dash or two of rum. For this month’s Foodbuzz 24×24, I spend a sunny day Conch Tasting around the beautiful islands of Turks and Caicos with my friend S. We go diving for conchs and do a tasting (prepared in all sorts of ways) around the island. Not to mention, our first taste of the natural Viagra of the Caribbean! LOL (yes, it comes within the conch).

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Our day started with this beautiful sunrise. Bright and early, I was so excited.
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Before we knew it, the sun was up and we got ready for our fun and tasty day ahead.


CONCH DIVING & SNORKELING
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Caicos Dream Tours picked us up at our hotel and off we went. Along the way we got snacks and Rum Punch! Awesome way to start.
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Conch Diving was fun. Well, I can’t really swim, so mine was more like a “snorkeling for conch”. I stayed on the shallow area, which meant smaller conchs. I guess I had an idea of how the conch usually “looks”, the typical shiny smooth, nice pink shells. In nature however, it’s a totally different thing, they are covered with seaweed and camouflaged. It took me a while to find them and it was quite rocky, my fins were filled with tiny rocks at one point, super annoying. But I finally did manage to get one! Only problem was, too tiny to keep, so I snapped a couple pictures of my prize before throwing it back in the turquoise waters. It was a proud moment nevertheless.
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The captain and the diver dude really did the bulk of the work. They got just enough for all of us and made sure we had enough for a nice conch salad for lunch. Plus a shell to take home for every 2 people. 
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After the most amazing snorkeling S and I have ever done, literally like putting your head into a giant aquarium, our ship landed on Half Moon Bay. The 25 of us had this little piece of paradise to ourselves. I’ve never seen anything like this. 
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The water was so clear, you could see the fish swimming all around you. 


PREPPING FOR CONCH SALAD
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The captain and diver started opening the conchs and cleaning them. Prepping for our Conch Salad lunch. I’ve had conch salads in other Caribbean islands, but never like this. Right off the dive, you can’t get any more fresh. As you can see, only a small portion of the conch is actually edible.


TRYING VIAGRA OF THE CARIBBEAN 

As our diver friend opens our conch, he reveals the sex and convinces us to try the Island Viagra LOL I was really hesitant at first, since I saw a bunch laying on the sand (clearly, not everyone was up for it). But for the sake of curiosity and this blog, I did it and dragged S. Did I feel any different you ask? Not really, but it was fun and weird at the same time. I like to think that I made my favorite travel dude Andrew Zimmern proud!


FRESH CONCH SALAD
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While we were exploring our unbelievable surroundings, the boys had made our lunch. Conch salad can be found all around the island. The naturally sweet conch meat is splashed with fresh lime juice, then mixed with tomatoes, peppers, onions and green chilies. Ceviche style. It’s sort of a cross between raw giant clams, scallops and squid. I love the texture and flavor. 


CLEANING CONCH SHELLS

Our take home shell had to be cleaned, so I had to find my own way of doing it. The proper way was taking too long and I wanted to go see some more of Half Moon Bay. Tiny fish surrounded me as I was scrapping the seaweed off, how cool is that! And tickly. 


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We walked around this untainted piece of earth, accompanied by some friendly reptiles and water plants. It was so serene and surreal. 

We found this weird water seaweed/turtle/creature thingy. S and I were so fascinated by it, we were the last ones on the island. Everyone was on board and waiting for us to head back. We were welcomed back with sarcastic yet friendly remarks for being late… LOL
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With that, we said goodbye to our new friends. It was an extremely amazing way to spend the morning. 


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We spent a couple hours on the beach before continuing our conch feast. S and I have been to a handful of Caribbean islands and we both agreed, Turks and Caicos is our favorite so far and we’ll definitely come back asap. Next year for sure.


LATE LUNCH AT THE “da CONCH SHACK
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A really chill joint right on the beach. This was recommended by reviews and locals. Perfect for the tasting idea I was looking for, they do conch in all ways. You know this place is awesomely cool, when they list “Fuzzy happy feeling – FREE” as one of their menu items. Love it!
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There’s indoor and outdoor seating. A Rum Bar on the side. 
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Yummy Rum Punch to start us off. Seemed to be the staple drink everywhere we went. Fruity and tropical, plus they weren’t skimpy on the alcohol.
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CONCH CHOWDER tasted familiar. Almost like a Manhattan Clam Chowder. 
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CONCH SALAD was my favorite way of having conch. It’s so fresh here, there’s really no need to do much to it. The natural flavors and texture are highlighted when done simply. 
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CRACKED CONCH & CONCH FRITTERS was a combo they described as an introduction to conch beginners. The cracked conch tasted very similar to fried calamari, only sweeter. The conch fritters have a nice crunchy/chewy batter. Really well seasoned. All fried things are yummy to begin with, but I felt like the natural flavor of conch was lost in the mix.
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CURRIED CONCH was interesting. They cooked the conch so much that the texture totally changed. It was basically like having curried squid, which wasn’t bad, but not what I was looking for. The curry itself is mild with fragrant coconut aromas throughout and good over the white rice.
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After our conch galore, like any good tourist I bought shells from the local vendor. Such a big change from the ones I was holding in the morning, look at the shine and color. They all have a hole up top, which is how the meat was taken out after being hammered. 


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Before dinner, we witness a breathtaking  by the beach. 
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On our way, we also encountered Mr.Crabby, which we almost stepped on!


DINNER AT “BAY BISTRO” 
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Our dinner was once again on the beach. Really nice view, sort of romantic for S and I, but what the hell, we’ve been to Paris together… ‘nough said. This was a proper dinner, white table cloths and all. More of a fusion and creative menu.
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PECAN CRUSTED CONCH came along with a spicy orange sauce. Tthe textures and flavors sort of resembled coconut shrimp for some reason. The pecan flavor wasn’t as prominent as I would of liked and again, once conch is cooked, the texture becomes more chewy and by adding all these flavors, that natural sweetness my tastebuds were craving for was lost. It wasn’t a bad dish by any means, just conch wise, I prefer it raw.


It was a fantastic Conch Tasting day, but I was totally conch-ed out after dinner. 
Girls getaway + beautiful beaches + conch tasting + foodbuzz = happy post! Thanks Foodbuzz for this unforgettable conch day.