So far my gastronomic experience in the DR has been awesome, even if some days I feel like I won’t be able to eat again for another week. Normally when I am living on my own in the USA, I eat what would be described as a vegetarian diet, only because I can get more veggies than meat for my dollar. Having some sort of meat almost every day is still a novel thing, though I do forsee myself wishing for just a plain salad towards the end of this.
The meat here is typically stewed or grilled. When in the restaurant, you usually get a side – tostones (smashed fried plantains), rices&beans, candied plantains, or even french fries – with your entree. When you’re eating at a Dominican house, you may see all of those on the table, in addition to the main protein and a salad or other vegetables.
Some of the highlights so far have been:
- Chivo guisado – stewed goat meat. Mine had a sauce with a brandy base, which gave it a slightly sweet undertone.
- Berenjena – eggplant (my host mom grilled the whole eggplants over the stove flame, then fried and smashed them, combined with onions and peppers to make a delicious sort of paste)
- Concón – this is like the crunchy rice that gets stuck at the bottom of the pot, except it’s cooked that way on purpose. Usually it’s eaten with habichuelas guisadas on top.
- Mofongo – Smashed plantain purree that’s fried and comes originally from Puerto Rico.
- Huevos y cebollas fritos con platano maduro –fried eggs topped with fried onions and served with boiled plantain. It sounds weird to mix the salty and sweet but the plantains don’t really have a strong sweet flavor like bananas do. Initially I was hesitant to mix all the components but by the end I mopping up the yolk with the plantain – que rico!
Other things of note were granadilla and chinola juice – granadilla is a fruit that is part of the Passion Fruit family but has a much more delicate flavor. I had never heard of it in English (Sweet Granadilla) nor have I ever seen the fruit itself. In juice form, it has small granules like you’d find when drinking pear nectar but the flavor is extremely subtle. I thought they had just watered down the juice but my Dominican friend told me that, no, in fact, that is just how it tastes. The aftertastes is like a light, perfumed flavor that isn’t too sweet. Chinola is the Dominican Spanish word for passion fruit and after walking around inside the market in Santo Domingo, natural Chinola juice was super refreshing.
Another thing I’ve noticed is just how many different beans are used in Dominican cuisine. My second day I had guandules (pigeon peas), then later on in the week we had arroz y moros (rice and red beans) and then the other day I had stewed habichuelas (kidney beans). Still not sure what the difference is between moros and habichuelas is, but when I find out, I’ll let you know!
I’ll be posting tomorrow on my weekend trip to the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, here are some pictures of all the food I’ve had!