The south east of the country was settled by immigrants from the English
speaking Caribbean islands, and they brought over their johnnycakes and
dumplings which have been warmly welcomed into the national culinary repertoire,
with their names more or less intact – ‘yaniqueques’ and ‘domplín’.|
The southwestern Dominican Republic has a lot of influence from neighboring
Haiti, and some of the dishes there reflect that. One example is ‘Chen chen’, a
savory pudding made with cornmeal, which is a close relation of the Haitian
favorite ‘maiz moulou’.
The valleys of the central highlands are where much of the country’s vegetable
crops are cultivated. As well as definitely non-tropical produce like
strawberries and apples, the Constanza area is famous for an unusual tuber
called Creole celery root, ‘cepa de apio’ in Spanish. This delicately flavored
root can be eaten as a ‘mangú’ or a creamy soup. Another favorite vegetable soup
in the Dominican Republic is the ‘crema de auyama’ or cream of squash.
The indigenous roots of the Dominican people are not often in evidence, but
their legacy to the culinary tradition is a notable exception. Cassava bread
‘casabe’ is still made the traditional way in several parts of the country, and
is a popular accompaniment to sancocho and other stews and soups, like the rice
The country’s African heritage is mainly found in dishes like ‘mondongo’ (tripe
stew) and ‘mofongo’ - mashed fried plantains with garlic and pork rind,
typically served in a ‘pilón’ – the pestle and mortar at many Dominican
Other international recipes have infiltrated into the kitchens of the Dominican
Republic, and have been given a uniquely Dominican makeover. These include the
Chinese chow fan, which is reincarnated into Dominican ‘chofán’, and Italian
pasta which is prepared with an unmistakably Dominican twist. The Middle Eastern
influence is also present in the shape of ‘quipes’ (kibbes) and ‘tipili’ (tabouleh),
as a result of significant migration to the Dominican Republic from Lebanon,
Syria, Jordan and Palestine.
When certain foods are in season, you will be soon to know. Not only will you
see street vendors with avocadoes at every street corner, but hotels,
restaurants and households will serve sliced avocadoes at every opportunity. The
same goes for mangos.
Desserts in the Dominican Republic are typically sweet. Most are based on milk
and fruit. Some are original Dominican sweets and puddings, while others are
shared with neighboring nations and Spanish cousins. ‘Flan’ and ‘quesillo’,
‘dulce de leche’, ‘tres leches’ – none of these are uniquely Dominican but they
are firm local favorites. Classic Dominican desserts include ‘majarete’ (sweet
corn pudding) and the strangely named ‘mala rabia’ a sweet, syrupy compote made
with sweet potatoes and fruits such as pineapple. Pineapple, orange, grapefruit,
papaya and coconut are the basic ingredients in simple sweets made with fruit
and sugar, sometimes spiced with a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg.
If you’re after hot and spicy food, don’t hold your breath. Dominican food is
hardly ever spicy – most Dominican cooks don’t even like using pepper. The only
commonly known spicy dish is the ‘chivo picante’ spicy goat stew mentioned
Many popular street snacks are also the nation’s favorite party foods: quipes,
empanadas and pastelitos are sold on street corners and served on the most
elegant and refined buffet tables.
Different parts of the county have their own specialties, reflecting the local
characteristics and history of the area. The northeastern Samaná peninsula,
where millions of coconut palms grow, combined the fruits of the surrounding sea
with delicious coconut sauce. Crab, fish or shrimp is served with coconut, and
another local delicacy is coconut bread.
The far northwest, on the other hand, is scrubby and arid, and much of the
terrain is inhospitable to anything except for grazing goats and oregano bushes.
This combination is brought to the dinner table in the form of spicy goat stew,
known as ‘chivo liniero’ or ‘chivo picante’.