International Cooking: Food from the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country that shares an island, called Hispaniola, with Haiti.

Hispaniola was once inhabited by native people who divided the island into five chiefdoms. These people, called the Taíno, had developed an advanced farming and hunting society and were on the way to becoming an organized civilization. They also inhabited some of the neighboring islands, such as Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas.

Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 and claimed the island. A Spanish colony was formed, which was the first seat of colonial rule in the New World. The western third of the island had been claimed by the French, which Spain formally recognized in 1697. That third is what became Haiti.

In 1821, the Dominican Republic declared independence from Spain. However, Haiti forcefully annexed the country in 1822, and it wasn’t until 1844 after the Dominican War of Independence that they truly became independent.

There is a lot more interesting history, with failed invasions by Haiti and a brief return to Spanish control, but that would take too long to go into. Today, the Dominican Republic has the largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region and is the seventh-largest economy in Latin America. It is the most visited destination in the Caribbean. It sounds like they still don’t get on too well with Haiti, however!

What Do People Eat in the Dominican Republic?

Since the Dominican Republic was a Spanish colony for so long, there are some heavy Spanish influences on the cuisine. Aside from that, there are many similarities with other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Rice might be the most common meal accompaniment, and if there’s not rice, there will often be corn or wheat in some form. Legumes and vegetables such as potatoes, yuca/cassava, and plantain are also common staples.

Chicken and beef are the most popular when it comes to meat, and seafood is plentiful too.

Soup is seen as a popular option for many Dominicans, as more than a third lives in poverty and soup is one of the easiest things to make with little money. Many soups are based on vegetables and beans, but there is also sancocho de siete carnes, or seven meat stew, which is something I would like to try someday.

What I Made

Los Tres Golpes (Mashed Plantain, Fried Cheese, Salami, and Eggs)

Los Tres Golpes (Mashed Plantain, Fried Cheese, Salami, and Eggs)

Los tres golpes (translating to ‘the three hits/strikes’) is a popular breakfast meal in the Dominican Republic. It is made up of eggs, queso frito (fried cheese) and Dominican salami, served with mangú (mashed plantain). Red onions are lightly cooked and combined with a little vinegar before topping the mangú (and after this photo I topped the eggs with them too!) I couldn’t get queso frito or halloumi, the best substitute, so I had a go at frying some feta I had in my freezer. I felt it might hold together just well enough to succeed. It only sort of worked. I also didn’t have Dominican salami, so I used some salami that looked kind of close to the photos. So this isn’t exactly an authentic tres golpes, but it was delicious all the same!

This doesn’t really need a recipe, except for the mangú. For that, I used a recipe from Dominican Cooking. It turned out pretty good, though I think my favorite way to eat plantains is still fried and smashed.

La Bandera (Rice, Chicken, Beans, and Salad)

La Bandera (Rice, Chicken, Beans, and Salad)

This is a traditional lunch meal in the Dominican Republic, and it is considered the national dish. It usually consists of rice, beans, some kind of meat, and salad, but there are many variations. ‘La bandera’ in Spanish means ‘the flag’, and this dish is supposed to represent the colors of the Dominican flag. The beans represent the red, the rice represents the white, and the meat represents the blue (yes, meat isn’t really blue so it’s a pretty loose association there).

I made plain white rice, habichuelas guisadas rojas (stewed beans), pollo guisado (braised chicken), and a Dominican salad. I also added some tostones, which are green plantain slices that you slice, fry, then smash flat and fry again.

I used a few recipes for this, all from Dominican Cooking:

Everything was really good, though this was more food than I really needed for lunch!

Morir Sonando (Orange and Milk Drink)

Morir Sonando (Orange and Milk Drink)

This is a simple drink consisting of orange juice, evaporated milk, sugar, and vanilla. It was supposed to be served with ice but I omitted it since it’s pretty cold here at the moment. This was quite good but I ended up adding more orange juice, and then it was better.

I used this recipe from Dominican Cooking.

Chimichurri (Burger)

Chimichurri (Burger)

Chimichurri in the Dominican Republic is not the same as the green Argentinean sauce. In the Dominican Republic, a chimichurri, often referred to simply as ‘chimi’, is a hamburger. This is different from regular hamburgers in a few ways, primarily because it typically uses pan de agua, similar to a small baguette, it never includes cheese, and it is topped with shredded cabbage rather than lettuce.

I made the pan de agua myself, and it didn’t turn out too well, I think because the dough was too wet to hold its shape. But also, the recipe wanted me to bake it in a burger bun tin which would have helped the dough keep its shape better. I didn’t have that and thought I’d try my luck with a regular baking sheet. However, as is usually the case with homemade bread, it did still taste really good regardless of how it looked.

The meat for the chimichurri was combined with red onion, garlic, bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper, before being formed into a sort of oval shape to match the pan de agua. Mine should’ve been a bit bigger; it shrinks a bit when cooked and I need to remember that for next time (because there will probably be a next time).

The sauce for the chimichurri is made with ketchup, mayonnaise, orange juice, and Worcestershire sauce. I was a little unsure about the orange juice, but it ended up tasting really good!

For the toppings, I used red onion, tomato, and shredded cabbage.

Overall, this was a great dish! I will probably make it again and see if I can make some nicer-looking bread!

Both the chimichurri recipe and pan de agua recipe were from Dominican Cooking.

Locrio de Pollo (Chicken and Rice)

Locrio de Pollo (Chicken and Rice)

I’ve noticed that a lot of countries have their own version of chicken and rice, and this is one from the Dominican Republic. Locrio can also be made with other types of meat.

First, the chicken is marinated with salt, oregano, cilantro, pepper, bell pepper, onion, celery, garlic, capers, olives, and lime juice. Then you heat some sugar in oil, which I think is meant to help the chicken brown better. This technique was also used in the pollo guisado I made for la bandera earlier in the week, but that recipe used regular white sugar. This one used brown sugar, and it didn’t really want to spread out into the oil; instead it was forming clumps. I added the chicken before it was really browned because I was worried I would end up with clumps of burned brown sugar otherwise. So I’d definitely use white sugar whenever this technique comes up again. My chicken didn’t brown that much; even after I’d added it I was still worried about the brown sugar burning and so I added the other ingredients a bit early.

After browning the chicken, you add everything it was marinated with, as well as kabocha squash or carrot (I used carrot) and tomato sauce. Some water gets added, and once it’s boiling you add the rice and cook until it’s done.

This was a really delicious and easy meal! The recipe I used is from Dominican Cooking.

Final Thoughts

This was a good week! The chimichurri was probably my favorite but I also really enjoyed the beans and chicken in la bandera.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Ecuador.

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