Those who believe the Dominican Republic serves typical Caribbean cuisine, guess again. With a plethora of fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables, and meats, the Dominican Republic blends culinary styles from Latin America, Spain, and France. As a result, the dishes are an amazing blend of flavors, mild spices, and varying textures. Unlike the chain stores in many countries, the Dominican Republic prides itself on selling fresh ingredients from their local markets. Typical foods are sweet potatoes, goat meat, pig meat, fresh saltwater fish, shellfish, mangoes, papayas, plantains, cassava melon, coconuts, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and passion fruit.
Given the abundance of high quality foods, it is not surprising that locally prepared dishes are delightful treats. Pigs are an important aspect in the Dominican Republic's meat markets. Spicy longaniza sausages hang from racks in many butchers. Pork is slowly roasted over a spit to a tender state of perfection. The Dominican Republic follows a traditional Spanish custom in which workers leave their jobs at noon and go home for a leisurely meal with their family before returning to work two or three hours later.
This leisurely break is called La Bandera. During these lengthy meals, bowls of rice, meats stewed with beans, vegetables, fried plantains, and pitchers of water or other beverages are shared. The family enjoys time together, clean up, and then return to finish their work or school day. Many see the Dominican Republic as a poor area, but despite this image, their food is rich and hearty.
The lack of wealth for some does not cause the dinner table to go empty. Full lunches together still occur five days a week. Many wealthy families in other countries cannot boast having so much quality family time! Sancocho, a delightful soup filled with huge chunks of meat and vegetables, is served for many meals. The soup usually contains pork or beef and then onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, yucca root, plantains, cassava root, and broth.
For celebrations, seven meats are mixed to enhance the glamour of this dish. Pastel en Hoja blends marinated meat cubes with other ingredients and then slowly steams the mixture inside banana leaves. Fish steamed with vegetables in coconut milk is also served in many homes.
For dessert, fried portions of dough similar to Churros or fresh fruit are both extremely popular. Chicharrones de Pollo is the Dominican Republic's answer to fried chicken. Chicken pieces are coated in a mildly spiced flour mixture and then fried to golden perfection. The food of Dominican Republic is a culinary treat that no person should miss. Even if one is not traveling to the area, it is easy to make some of these dishes in the comfort of your own home. What a way to celebrate a fabulous country's cuisine.
Gregg Hall is an author living in Navarre Beach, Florida. Find more about this as well as food gift baskets at http://www.gourmetgiftbasketsplus.com