“Dominican cooking? It’s more than just arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans) you know”… that statement could be this site’s motto, and probably would be if it were a little more snappy.
Most visitors to the country cannot be blamed for thinking on first sight that Dominican food is just rice and beans. It is the ‘plato del dia‘ (dish of the day) in every typical comedor, and the daily lunch on most traditional family tables: habichuelas guisadas (stewed red beans), white rice, either chicken or beef , and salad.
“Don’t they get tired of eating the same thing every single day?” says the visitor. Where are you from, Sir or Madam? Italy? What do you eat every day? Pasta? “Va bene… si“. England? Chips with everything isn’t it? Or do you sometimes break from routine with mashed potatoes and even allow yourself the indulgence of roast potatoes on high days and holidays? “Can’t argue with that one, mate”. I could go on like this for a while, but before you jump in and remind me that this argument is a bit petty, and not really that convincing, let me give my real reply to the charge of gastronomic monotony.
The ‘Dominican Flag’, the central plate on the Dominican lunch menu has its variations. Rice and beans is not just rice and beans. It can be rice and beans prepared together or separately. When they are mixed together they are known as ‘moro‘. I can think of at least four types of ‘moro': red bean moro, black bean moro, pigeon pea moro and any of these with coconut.
So far we have six variations. Add four more to the list: stewed red beans, stewed black beans, and stewed pigeon peas (guandules), the latter with or without coconut. Then the Bandera‘s other important item, the stewed meat can comprise of goat, beef, pork, chicken or fish (usually cod). Allora! Our beloved ‘Bandera Dominicana’ has at least fifteen permutations, old bean.
Not every single Dominican kitchen will produce a ‘Bandera Dominicana‘ type meal every day. There are plenty more choices available, including Dominican style chow fan and pasta, and vegetable based bakes which can be made with or without meat. Just look in the list of recipes on the site to see what I am driving at. Dominican Cooking – much more than rice and beans!
What I do find strange still, although I’m used to it, is the fact that in some restaurants, if you order a rice as a side dish, to accompany your fish for example, you are presented with a little bowl of bean stew without having asked for one. Is this because it is unthinkable, treasonous or sacrilegious to serve rice without beans?
About habichuelas guisadas
Habichuelas (Dominican beans) is an inherent part of the Dominican culture, and one of the components of La Bandera Dominicana (The Dominican Flag), the traditional Dominican lunch meal.
- 2 cups of dry pinto, cranberry, or red kidney beans
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 pinch of oregano
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small red onion cut into four quarters
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 cup of diced auyama (West Indies pumpkin)
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- Leaves from a celery stalk, chopped (optional)
- 4 sprigs of thyme (optional)
- ½ teaspoon of chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Soak the beans overnight.
- Remove the beans from the soaking water and boil in fresh water until they are very soft (may take up to an hour, or about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker.
- Separate the beans from the boiling water. Reserve both.
- In a pot heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add oregano, bell pepper, onion, garlic, auyama, tomato sauce, celery, thyme and cilantro. Cook and stir for half a minute.
- Add the beans and simmer for two minutes.
- Add 6 cups of the water in which the beans boiled (complete with fresh water if necessary).
- Lightly mashed the beans with a potato masher to break them out of the skin.
- Cook until it reaches a creamy consistency.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Serve with arroz blanco, a side dish (or salad) and meat.