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Exploring the Local Cuisine of Turks and Caicos

Renowned as a top Caribbean vacation destination, Turks and Caicos’ ivory white, powder-soft sand and crystal clear turquoise waters draw visitors from around the globe. The Islands also attract world class resorts and their entourage of critically acclaimed chefs who love working with fresh “catch of the day” seafood. While the beautiful beaches of this island chain will bring you here, it’s the delicious local cuisine that will bring you back!

The Caribbean Queen conch has become one of the islands’ most famous delicacies and is a major export; a must try for any foodie. The chewy white meat of this tiny marine mollusk has a taste like calamari that many of the islands gourmet restaurants incorporate to create a variety of exotic dishes.

Often served whole, snapper is a close second to conch and featured on every specials menu in Turks and Caicos. The snapper is typically grilled and served with a lemon caper and shallot butter sauce.

In 2006, when the invasive species lionfish entered the waters, local authorities encouraged chefs to incorporate the marine predator into their menus. The venom coated exterior spines need to be removed to ensure that the meat poses no risks to diners, but when properly cooked, lionfish is tender and moist.

If you really want to explore the diversity of the local cuisine, visit the islands during the Caribbean Food and Wine Festival held annually in November. Celebrating all good things from the sea, this festival features the hottest food scenes in the Caribbean. World class chefs inspire Turks and Caicos’ reputation as a culinary destination with award-winning food and a rich variety of dining establishments.

Don’t despair if you can’t visit the islands during the Caribbean Food and Wine Festival because every Thursday, locally owned pop-ups occupy the weekly fish fry in the Blue Hills area of Providenciales. Enjoy festive ambience with local music while you savour amazing food including conch fritters, traditional corn grits and Johnny cakes, and grilled snapper paired with the island’s own Bambarra rum.

The islands’ chefs are so good, they can’t be kept at home. They showcase their skills globally. The Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) Culinary Team created some much talked about dishes and cocktails at the 2017 Taste of the Caribbean competition in New York this past June. They walked away with gold.

Whether you are in the mood for an intimate fine dining experience or crave a festive ambience, culinary choices abound. A favourite among locals and tourists alike is Hemingway’s, the beachfront eatery at The Sands at Grace Bay resort in Providenciales. This restaurant features delicious local cuisine to be savoured while overlooking the beautiful Grace Bay. Regularly appearing on the “top,” “ultimate” and “best” on beach lists of the world, Grace Bay beach is unquestionably one of the grandest settings in which to enjoy a meal. Patrons of Hemingway’s are encouraged to try the “Conch Served The Way You Like It” menu option. Conch fritters are a favourite. Described in a recent review by Carib Journal as “perfectly battered, golden brown, the right median between soft and crunchy, terrific, fritters that just might be the best in Providenciales.”

If you want to bring a bit of the Caribbean home, pick up a bottle or two of PeppaJoy hot sauce. Hand made locally by founder Delano Handfield of Blue Hills Providenciales, PeppaJoy uses indigenous herbs, fruits and vegetables grown right on Providenciales and North Caicos. The hot sauce can be picked up at retailers throughout the islands.

After treating yourself to the culinary adventures of the Turks and Caicos, your palate will never be the same. You may very well end up extending your trip to stay a little longer in this foodie heaven.

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