Food is not just nourishment. There’s also an emotional relationship between people and food. And the food we grew up with, no matter how unusual to the rest of the world, always comforts us and brings us memories of happy times long gone.
That is exactly the case with this Sopión (Sweet and spicy red bean stew).
I grew up with this dish.
Like we have mentioned before, most Dominicans learn how to cook from their relatives. In my case I absorbed a bit from fairly much all of my closest female relatives. This stew was passed on to me by my aunt Flora, at whose house I spent many a day of my childhood, playing with her children, my older cousins.
With its combination of sweet, savory and spicy flavors it is an intriguing dish. But combining sweet and savory in our meals is not unheard of for Dominicans. In fact, it is very common.
From serving our meals with fritos maduros and plátanos al caldero, to adding raisins and fruits to many of our dishes, it seems like our sweet tooth has taken serious possession of our culinary culture. And while there may be a few Dominicans who do not share their fellow countrymen’s enthusiasm for sweet and savory meals, the vast majority seem to regard it as normal.
Sopión de habichuelas, also known as sancocho de habichuelas, is a delightful, hearty soup that combines spicy and sweet flavors. For the record the stew itself is not sweet, it’s the ripe plantains and sweet potatoes that will give it its sweet touch to contrast with the lightly spicy stew.
I invite you to give it a try. You might be surprised.
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] of smoked pork chops with bones, cut into small pieces
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] of longaniza (spicy pork sausage), cut into slices
- 1/2 teaspoon of mashed garlic
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 4 cups of red kidney beans boiled very soft
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- 1 quart [1 lt] of water
- 1 pinch of oregano
- 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
- 1/2 lb [0.2 kg] of sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced
- In a soup pot heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the pork chops and sausage and brown.
- Add garlic, and bell pepper. Cook and stir for half a minute.
- Pour in the beans, tomato sauce and water. Simmer covered for five minutes
- Add oregano, cilantro, sweet potatoes, sugar and plantains.
- Boil over medium heat until all the ingredients are cooked throughout and the stew reaches a creamy consistency. Adjust water if it becomes necessary.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with arroz blanco.
If you bought pork chops with bones, don't throw them away! Add them to the stew and remove when serving, they will add extra flavor to it.