Dominican Republic Food 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 based ‘asopao’.

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 restaurants.

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 earlier.

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’.
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