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Street Food Friday: A Controversial Taste of Turtle in Grand Cayman

March 7, 2014 at 2:16 PM | by | ()

In a new weekly Friday column, we'll explore street food and other culinary specialties from around the world. Last week, it was fried lobster in Puerto Nuevo. This week, we head back to the Caribbean and Grand Cayman to see what's cooking.

On our last day in Grand Cayman, we went in search of something we had heard was a common dish served on the island, something that might be even more controversial than the consumption of whale in Norway: We were after a taste of turtle.

Many types of travel test your limits, but few challenge your perceptions the way culinary differences between cultures can. Bring up the fact that you ate turtle in a crowded room, and you will most likely receive a mixed bag of responses, those on the negative end being charged with anger and disappointment. Other animals may suffer similar fates, but people have a way of drawing the line.

There is definitely controversy on the island revolving around one specific turtle farm, but we weren't there to talk politics - we were there because we wanted to experience Caymanian culture, which eats turtles. To fully immerse ourselves, we had to try it. The locals recommended Myrtle's for its fresh turtle burgers, soups, and steaks. We went with the former at lunch, and when it arrived, it looked just like any other meat-based burger (shown above). This is a good approach for those that might not want to be unnecessarily reminded that they're eating turtle.

The taste was similar to veal in that it was richer and sweeter than chicken and beef. This is one of the reasons turtle makes a great soup, the sweetness complimenting the salt of the broth. The burger was good, but we would recommend trying the soup for your first time, and, if you enjoy, indulging in the other preparations as follow ups. We feel the soup is the most traditional and the best vehicle to truly taste the meat. It provides more flavor enhancement than a straight-up steak and removes the blanket of the bun.

You can read more about the turtle debate on the island here. Our advice would be to investigate where your turtle comes from Portlandia style if you have an issue with those that are farm-raised.

[Photo: Will McGough]

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