Tuesday, June 25, 2013

La Comida Dominicana: Specialties and Street Food


Mealtime in the Dominican Republic usually means eating with a large group: close family, relatives from out of town, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and possibly any number of household animals. Dominicans therefore know how to cook for big crowds. One of the most popular dishes for such times is sancocho, a hearty stew prepared with several kinds of víveres, a multitude of other vegetables, and various kinds of meat. The stew simmers for hours over an open fire, serving dozens and making everyone happy. A similar dish is called asopao, prepared with a base of rice instead of víveres.

Habichuelas con Dulce
At Easter in the countryside, neighbors might build a fire alongside the nearest river, and prepare moro de guandules (rice with pigeon peas) with bacalao (salted cod) accompanied by generous amounts of rum. A popular dessert during this time (referred to as Semana Santa) is habichuelas con dulce, a pudding-like dessert made from a base of beans, along with white sweet potato, condensed milk, sugar, and cinnamon. It is usually topped with small milk cookies.
Pig Roasting on a Spit

Christmastime brings the smell of crackling pig skin wafting through the air as men rotate whole pigs over a spit. After slow-roasting the pig all day, hosts serve the tender meat alongside ensalada rusa (potato salad with the festive addition of beets), and pan telera (a long white bread). For dessert, children and adults alike munch on apple slices, grapes, gum drops, nuts, and marshmallows.


Tostones are the French fries of the Dominican Republic. What better to do with unripe plantains, found in abundance across the country, than twice-fry them and serve with every meal? To make tostones, plantains are sliced less than an inch thick, fried, flattened, and then fried again. They are ubiquitous and delicious, found in every fancy restaurant and roadside stand. When in doubt, order tostones.


Sharing a Caribbean island, the DR features those sweet and colorful tropical fruits all your dreams are fresh-squeezed from. Some fruits grow all year, while others have a short growing season. Two of the most popular fruits that have specific seasons are aguacate (avocado), in the fall, and mango, in the spring and summer. Also try limoncillo (a slimy sweet and sour fruit resembling a lychee), and chinola (passion fruit), available in the summer. Year-round, enjoy lechosa (papaya), guineo (banana), china (orange), and coco (coconut).

Street Food

Pica Pollo with Tostones
Those with strong digestive systems should certainly try some of the food from roadside stands. Of course, it is important to be cautious: make sure your street meat hasn’t been sitting out in the sun for too long. Visit fried food stands called frituras to try out famed tostones, chicharrón (fried pork skin), arepitas (fried balls of cornmeal), quipes (a fried wheat dumpling with a ground meat center), yaniqueques (savory dough that is stretched, then fried) and the ubiquitous empanada, sometimes called a pastelito (depending on the size and filling).

We also recommend visiting brick-and-mortar joints called “Pica Pollo,” which can be found every few blocks in any town. These spots specialize in moist, delicious fried chicken (goes perfectly with an icy Presidente), and often serve the chicken with fried rice introduced by the small Chinese population on the island.

Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/remolachaoficial/8491126110/">Remolacha.net pics</a> / <a href="http://foter.com">Foter.com</a> / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA</a> 

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