The Dominican Republic has more restaurants than any Caribbean island.
Interestingly, here the Dominican food restaurants are outnumbered by Argentinean, British, Chinese, Cuban, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Spanish, Swiss, Taiwanese and Arabian restaurants. This reflects the cosmopolitan outlook of the residents in this country, especially the capital city.
Dominican food primarily takes its influence from Spanish cooking with added touches of Caribbean herbs and spices. Many restaurants, including those in hotels, will feature several typical Dominican dishes.
We recommend you try dishes prepared "a la criolla" or "guisado." These are basically meat (beef, pork, chicken) or seafood (shrimp, crab, conch) prepared in a tomato-base sauce with garlic, onions, olives and cilantro.
Fried foods are very popular, such as "chicharrones de pollo" or "carne frita", chicken and beef which are usually heavily seasoned (but never spicy). These will be served with fried plantains, which are cut in one-inch slices, then flattened, dipped in salted water and fried in vegetable oil. Do not miss "mangú", the same green or ripe plantains that have been boiled and then mashed and served with cooked onions. A typical breakfast will be mangú with onions, fried white cheese, fried eggs and orange juice.
Coconut is used to prepare many local dishes. Those traveling to Samana, the nation's leading producer of coconuts, should savor the "pescado con coco", a delicacy native to this area. This is fish stewed in a subtle coconut and tomato sauce.
Rice is king in the Dominican Republic. The most popular meal in Dominican households will be a simple dish of white rice, red stewed beans, meat, and fried plantains. It is so popular Dominicans call it "la bandera," or the flag. Another popular rice dish is "moro", which can be of red beans, guandules or black beans.
Another national dish is a stew, "Sancocho", made of a mixture of different meats and several root plants only found in the Caribbean.
For desert, there are numerous sweets such as "dulce de leche," and "dulce de coco." Fruits cooked in syrup are also popular, for example bitter orange, papaya, guava, cashew or pineapple. If you visit during Easter, make sure to request "habichuelas con dulce," a sweet concoction made with red beans. All year round you can try "majarete," a kind of corn pudding. Both "habichuelas con dulce" and "majarete" are available in ice cream form sold by Helados Bon ice cream shops all around the country. Flan is another very popular dessert here – even available in cans!
For those who'd like to step into a Dominican kitchen but can't make the trip just yet, why not savor the culinary treats of this country in your own kitchen:
1 2-lb. frying chicken, cut into pieces
3 lbs. fresh pork chops, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons oil
3 green plantains
1 lb mapuey
l lb. ñame
l lb. potatoes
1/2 lb. white yautía
1/2 lb. yellow yautía
1/2 lb. auyama
3 ears corn, halved
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
3 sprigs cilantrico
3 coriander (cilantro) leaves
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice
2 tablespoons vinegar*
Marinate the meat for two hours in all the ingredients in the second section (from green pepper on). In a large kettle, saute meat in the oil. Peel and dice the other vegetables. Stir with the meat. Add water to cover. Cook until broth thickens. Season to taste.
Unavailable vegetables may be substituted with those that are available.
Serve from the cooking kettle. Spoon two spoons of cooked rice on top of each bowl of stew. Serves 8-10. (Allow 1/2 lb. meat per person).
Do not use ham or smoked pork.
*For vinegar, Dominicans use the squeezed juice from the naranja agria (an orange with pocked surface) or agrio (juice from the naranja agria poured over marble-sized onions, green pepper, and garlic which sets for a week or so.)
CHICHARRONES DE POLLO (Fried chicken)
If sanchocho and ‘la bandera’ are the national dishes, then chicken chicharrones, Dominican-style fried chicken, is a close third. Here's the recipe:
1 chicken (3-4 lbs.)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or thick soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 green limes, cut into pieces
1/2 cup cooking oil (Dolores, please check this amount: it said: 1[/2, whatever that is.)
1 teaspoon salt
Cut chicken into pieces and wash. (Cut the wings into two pieces, the breast into four, the drumsticks into two.)
Season the pieces with lime juice, Worcestershire, and salt. Set aside.
Mix flour with salt and paprika. Roll each piece of chicken in the flour twice very well.
Heat oil until a drop of water dropped into it pops, and fry the pieces until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Decorate with lime pieces.
PESCADO CON COCO (fish with coconut)
2 lbs. red snapper or pollack
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pepper (large), diced and cleaned of seeds
Fresh greens, leek, parsley, etc. to taste
4 or 5 limes
1/2 can tomato sauce
1 fresh coconut or canned coconut milk*
3 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons cooking oil
Clean fish well and slice open. Squeeze lime juice and rub fish. Combine all seasonings, greens, garlic, onions, peppers in blender and chop well. Use half of this mixture to season open fish.
Heat oil in large pot, add other half of seasoning from blender with tomato sauce and coconut milk. Stir constantly to prevent from lumping until mixture boils.
Place open fish in same pot and let cook for 15 minutes, taking care it does not fall apart.
Serve upon platter laden with fresh lettuce and tomatoes. Serves four.
*To extract milk from coconut, first grate white meat from coconut. Add one cup of water to shavings and place in clean cloth. Squeeze until all liquid comes out of cloth.
DULCE DE COCO (Coconut Sweet)
Since the country is a large sugar producer, there is an enormous candy and dessert variety available.
Jars are packed tight full of specialties like dulce de leche (a sweet made of milk), dulce de coco (coconut sweet), dulce de batata (sweet potato candy), and even dulce de tomate (tomato preserve).
An infinite variety of pastes are available and easy to make. Orange paste, cashew paste, and guava paste are just a few of the goodies you ought to try.
1 large coconut
1-1/2 lbs. of sugar
1-1/2 quarts of fresh milk
1 splinter of cinnamon (what is a splinter of cinnamon? A stick?)
Rind of one lime
1 cup water
Several clean glass jars with tight lids.
First clean the coconut of its brown crust and wash well. Grate and add one cup of water. Set to boil adding sugar and cinnamon and all of the milk and lime rind.
Cook for 1-1/2 hours stirring constantly over low flame. When the mixture is gooey in consistency and comes up clean from the bottom of the pot, your candy is ready, but first let it stand to cool. Fill jars and refrigerate. Serve chilled.