While Belize’s International Airport officially opened on October 1, so did Belize’s Queen Conch season! For those of you wondering, Conch is a tropical marine mollusk, and it is delicious. As one of the most significant sources of revenue in the fishing industry, conch is a staple across Belize—absolutely irresistible in dishes like ceviche, fritters, curry, and soups. This seafood generates millions of dollars for Belize, and the season usually runs for its slate or until the conch quota set for that period has been met—whichever comes first. Although a tip for ordering in Belize: conch is pronounced with a hard K—CONK—not as it appears. Most people describe conch as an uber-fresh parallel to calamari, with a slightly sweet and chewy texture. So if you’re looking for ways to savor conch during its open season in Belize, here’s the best ways to eat it!
Conch fritters are bite-sized pieces of conch meat deep fried in batter for crispy little pockets of joy. My personal favorite? A (Belikin) beer batter base seasoned with fresh habanero pepper, sea salt, cilantro, plus diced peppers and onions. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few “out-of-season” mangos that overlap with conch fritters for an out-of-this-world companion—either added directly into the batter before frying or for a killer dipping sauce. Try one of our favorite from Lily’s Treasure Chest in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
You don’t have to look far in the Caribbean to find ceviche, unsurprising in a region home to some of the best seafood on the planet. Tenderized and cooked by freshly-squeezed limes, chunks of fresh conch meet a mix of vegetable companions unique to each chef’s hands. Ceviche instantly transports you beachside with its beautiful fresh citrus vibes when combined with lime, habanero pepper, and fragrant cilantro.
For most Belizeans the opening of the season signals much desired dishes, especially conch soup. Similar to a seafood chowder, a Belizean conch soup instead uses roux, fragranced by cold-pressed local coconut oil, before thickening with coconut milk. The soup is hearty, filled with carrots, ground root vegetables, and other local vegetables.
In a fast-paced world, the chef and restaurateur would normally be irate to not have their produce on a consistent basis. This, however, is not the case in Belize. While catch-of-the-day is a pleasant surprise in Belize, the open conch season is long anticipated. As of October 1, the 2020-2021 Queen Conch open season is slated to run until June 30, 2021. In Belize, Lobster season also overlaps until February 14, 2021.
Header image courtesy Ray Caye Island Resort