This post too has had quite a bit of thought put into it. My father is notorious for asking what I’ve eaten lately, so this one’s for him. Hi Dad J
Here you have the major food groups of the Dominican Republic:
Rice, rice and more rice. White rice is the most common and is usually consumed at lunch and is served with beans (habichuelas) or meat. Meat can be chicken (all parts bone-in) or beef.
Beans. They are usually red beans served in their sauce. A substitute for beans can also be lentils of all kinds. Which you may assume that beans are always a savory item, this is not the case. Habichuelas con dulce or sweet beans is an absolute favorite here. It’s especially popular around Easter. It’s almost like hot chocolate with red beans in it. There are also pieces of potato, coconut milk, vanilla, and LOTS of sugar. It’s served with little crackers that taste like animal crackers. I know it sounds gross but it’s really not that bad. I spent last Saturday night with my extended host family talking and making habichuelas con dulce in a huge cauldron over a fire. I think we made almost 5 gallons to be shared. I’m sure after two years I’ll like it.
Viveres are starchy vegetables. They are mostly root veggies but include Yucca, Potato, Plantains, and green bananas (we eat ripe ones too). They are usually served boiled to accompany salami (more on that in a second), scrambled eggs, or just about anything else. Mangu is a staple here also. Mangu is boiled plantains smashed into the consistency of mashed potatoes and mixed with margarine. My favorite is mangu served with sautéed onions and a fried egg on top! I also looove me some tostones, which are twice fried plantain fritters.
Yep, lots of them. Oatmeal is acceptable for lunch or dinner. Mini grilled cheese sandwiches as well. Another common food? Spaghetti. In Santo Domingo I was served a spaghetti sandwich. Gross you say? Well, imagine eating spaghetti in between two pieces of garlic bread. Not so bad, huh? A few nights ago I had Venezuelan arepas filled with ham and cheese and egg with veggies.
Salami. That’s right. I don’t know what it is, but everyone here eats it with just about everything. I would say chicken is the next most common meat and it’s delicious cooked rotisserie, in a crockpot or obviously fried. It’s also really cheap- its 45 pesos for a pound- which is a dollar a pound. After chicken come pork and beef, which are scarcer and a bit more expensive. The greatest mixture of all meats and viveres is a good quality sancocho. Sancocho is like a stew with just about any kind of vivere you can find and chicken, pork and beef.
Most veggies are available here. Eggplant is a common substitute for meat. Broccoli is not available where I live but can easily be purchased in the capital. Onions, peppers cabbage, carrots and cilantro are also common. Green salads are hard to come by and I am not able to eat them because most greens have been washed in unsafe water. I’m also not allowed to eat raw veggies or the skin of anything for the same reason. Boooooo.
Fruit, juice and batidas
I die for the fruit here. Mango season is coming and I could not be more excited. They will basically fall from the sky into my hands for free! There are fruit trees everywhere and almost all of it is edible. Also among my favorites are cherries, pineapple, papaya and bananas (especially when they come from a tree in my back yard). Tamarind is also really common for juice. If you walk into any Dominican house there is a good chance you are going to find fresh juice in the refrigerator. Batidas are fruit milkshakes made with fresh fruit, ice and milk. My favorite is a zapote batida, which is apparently a fruit that we don’t have in the US because when I Google it says “sapote” and I have no idea what that is. Either way, I’ve yet to find a fruit here that I don’t like.
Sugarcane is a common snack- people sell it by the piece to just chew on. You bite, chew, suck out the sugar and spit it out. It’s not my favorite.
I have to attribute the food here to the Dominican Republic’s geographic location… it has its Caribbean influences but also has many typical Latin American foods. I also think that the close proximity to the US has a lot of influence on the food and culture here. The Dominicans claim to make a mean hamburger, which I have yet to try but it’s definitely on my list. Here’s hoping I don’t get sick.
One thing I do know: As soon as I’m back in Santo Domingo I will be marching my American butt to the mall and eating either Carl’s Jr., Taco Bell or Ihop. And that’s final.