Immigrants from the Middle Eastern region, mainly from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt came to the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries in the late 19th and early 20th century.
At the time, most of the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe were under Turkish rule as part of the Ottoman Empire until its defeat in the First World War. For this reason, Latin Americans of Middle Eastern origin are sometimes known by the generic label turco to this day, even though few or none actually came from Turkey proper.
As in other parts of Latin America where businessmen like Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim and former Argentine president Carlos Menem – both of Middle Eastern origin – are household names, the Middle Eastern community in the Dominican Republic has flourished, mostly in business with a considerable number in the arts and in politics. Although relatively small in numbers in terms of percentage of the population, their presence is highly visible. Prominent families in Dominican political, society and business circles include Lama, Dauhajre, Khoury, Raful, Haché, Najri, Sued, Abinader, Nader, Brache, Zaglul, and many more.
The Middle Easterners also brought over their culinary tradition with them, and several recipes have become embedded in the typical Dominican repertoire. The most visible is probably the kibbe, known in the DR as kipe or quipe. This tasty oval fried snack made with meat and bulgur wheat is a popular street food and no Dominican buffet table is complete without it.
A baked meat pie called turco is a popular snack item in all bakeries, possibly named for María la turca’s famous bakery in the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo, as is arroz con fideos - rice with fried noodles and niño envuelto (rice and beef cake wrapped in cabbage), both of Egyptian origins.
Tipili, the Dominican name for tabbouleh, an emblematic Lebanese salad made with bulgur wheat, tomato, onion and parsley is another favourite in the Dominican Republic.
This is the local variation of the world-famous Tabouleh, the so -called "national Lebanese salad" brought here by Middle Eastern immigrants over a century ago.
- 1 cup of bulgur
- 1 cup of diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Juice from 1 lime
- 1 medium onion diced into small cubes
- 1 bunch of parsley, chopped
- 1 sprig of mint, chopped (optional)
- Soak the bulgur in abundant water for at least two hours.
- Drain the water and squeeze the bulgur to get rid of as much liquid as possible.
- Mix the bulgur with the tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint, oil and lime juice.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Serve chilled.
The original tabouleh salad contains a lot more parsley (and mint) than Dominicans add to it. We also did away with the mint, which, in my opinion of little esteem, was a great decision. You may add mint to yours if you so prefer.
Bulgur is sometimes sold under the name Coarse Bulgur Wheat. It would not be hard to find in Middle Eastern and Latino communities.