From Poetic to Bizarre: 7 odd Dominican Food Names

7 comidas con nombres graciosos o raros

Brits have their “spotted dicks” and Danes their “burning love” (which frankly sound like the same, er… “socially”-transmitted disease), but Dominicans put up a good fight when it comes to a nation that finds the oddest names for the most delicious dishes.

Here we bring you some of them, going from the poetic to the bizarre, with an obligatory stop on risqué; some are well-known, others not so much. Let’s see how many of these you know.

The rest of the world knows chimichurri as a herb-based sauce from Argentina. To Dominicans the beloved “chimi” is a local burger. Where did the name come from? I have no idea; but if you’re ever outside the D.R. be mindful that you are not going to get the sinfully-delicious, sauce-dripping burger if you are served chimichurri. Unless you are in Washington Heights that is.

Suspiro translates as “sigh” in English. A poetic name that evokes longing and nostalgia, at least in my mind. And yet, in the Dominican Republic suspiro is meringue, something you eat, and merengue is something you dance to. An important distinction to keep in mind at all times.

Rabo encendido
I don’t know if this name is funny or risqué, I guess it depends on one’s mind. Rabo encendido is “tail on fire” in Spanish, and yes, it sounds like the same disease as the dishes in the first paragraph, but get your mind out of the gutter, it is simply a dish based on oxtail in a very spicy sauce. Pretty innocent as it turns out.

Buche’ perico
Add to the list of “disgusting-sounding foods that just got an odd name” (“parrot’s gut”, really?). This corn-based stew hailing from El Cibao is actually worth trying, just don’t get put off by the name. Stick around as we’ll be posting this recipe very soon. Here it is: recipe for buche’ perico.

Morir soñando

Morir soñando
And back to the poetic. “To die dreaming” sounds like a Shakespeare tragedy, in reality it is the Dominican national drink. Or at least it should be. The very cold mixture of milk and freshly-squeezed orange juice surprises your palate and refreshes your body; as an added bonus, morir soñando is very nutritious.

Mala rabia
You would expect that a dish with this name (“bad rage”) would be fiercely-spicy, and you would be wrong: it is actually a dessert, one made with the strangest combination of ingredients. Mala rabia is a traditional dessert from the Southern DR made from guava, ripe plantains and sweet potatoes (batata) served either in a light syrup or a milk-based sauce. The first time I heard about it I was sure I was having my leg pulled.

Ok, this is an awful name for a food. There’s no two ways about it: it means “dog choker”. The thing is, it is also a pretty logical name for what it is: a coconut-based macaroon-shaped biscuit sold in colmados (corner stores) throughout the Dominican Republic. It is the low-class brother of the coconete, but drier and older. You must always accompany it with a drink, otherwise make sure your companions know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. You have been warned.

Do you know any other odd names for Dominican food? Time to share.

Aunt Clara
Receive Aunt Clara’s Updates
Find out about new recipes, articles, and sometimes exclusive content.

{ 23 comments… add one }

  • kklito April 7, 2015, 6:40 AM

    Canquiña, jalao, frikitaki, yun yun, raspadura

  • Ana April 6, 2015, 3:20 AM

    I love it listening to all the food and how weird they sound. That is how us Dominican say things. Any one try habichuelas con dulce

  • Cgirl April 5, 2015, 9:19 PM

    Hahahaha! this is so funny to read! specially the English version.
    I wonder what’s in the mind of foreigners when they hear those names the first time…

  • Catherine November 5, 2013, 11:34 PM

    I still haven’t been able to convince the canadians around me (more specifically: quebecquers) to try my morisoñando. Every time I make it they go “ewwww”, and me? well, too bad so sad, that means there’s more for me 😀

  • Sandra Paez September 23, 2013, 1:26 PM

    Gracias Tia Clara por esas aclaraciones 😉 La verdad que nosotros los dominicanos somos muy creativos y raros a la vez cuando se trata de ponerle nombres a nuestros platos :)

  • Janice December 27, 2012, 9:08 PM

    What about bofi. Another Dominican delicacy.

  • Yenelva July 27, 2012, 8:29 PM

    Actually, Yanikekes are johnny cakes! I went to an irish fest with my husband and you can not imagine how happy I got when I saw they were selling yanikekes. however, they put sugar powder on it to which I said no thanks. my husband looked at me like I was crazy but as always he tried and loved it

  • jamilette April 1, 2012, 1:37 PM

    Yaniqueque where did the came from because it sound like johnny cakes

  • tatiana torres December 5, 2011, 11:05 AM

    Where does Mangu come from? My uncle says the dish was served to an American and he said, "Man that's good." So, it stuck as Mangu!

  • Sour dough Bread Recipe October 17, 2011, 11:38 AM

    Looking very delicious and will definitely try it. Thanks for sharing such a yummy recipe.

  • Darleny De Leon May 7, 2011, 9:29 PM

    Oh God, I can't stop laughing at Cari's comments… "GOFIO"!!! I remember when I used to do it… ahhhh recuerdos.

  • Millie Bisono post a April 4, 2011, 2:26 PM

    On the risque side but you know dominicans love double entondras "Toto e Monja" is from el cibao and is in every pulperia i ever visited. it is a large dry biscuit much like that described in Añugaperros or coconete. you used to be able to by one por dos cheles (two pennys) when i was a kid.

    • Tolete March 3, 2013, 2:26 PM

      what about “teta e vieja”? – I forgot the name of that fruit but it looked like “an old lady’s titties” and you actually sucked on it. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?
      And the most important one – at least for me as a child growing up – CHUFLAY
      “TE LO SACATE EN UN CHUFLAY” – you used to buy it for a penney. it either had a little bit of “candy?” in it with a “toy” or NOTHING in it. good times !!!
      Oh,the name of the titty fruit is JAGUA. :-) An old lady used to pass by my house everyday shouting “teta e vieja” – I can’t believe I remember these things from 30 years ago growing up in Santo Domingo.

  • Heart March 30, 2011, 9:02 AM

    Here in the Philippines we had a different weird name but the FOOD is so Delicious like the ADOBO!!! most of the Tourist here even in other country love the ADOBO – it's a pork/chicken with the mixture of vinegar and soysouce…

  • Aunt Clara March 27, 2011, 12:34 PM

    @ Annie: there were two links pointing to the same page. I fixed it. Thanks.

  • annie March 27, 2011, 11:45 AM

    hmm. is it just me or do all the links to recipes presented in this article lead to the chimichurri recipe???

  • Marium Mushtaq March 27, 2011, 7:33 AM

    well here are a few

    Arranca muelas , and the one u said anuga perros I know I think its the same thing we are talking about but I know it as aoga burro, nino envuelto…Thank you for all the great recepies!

  • Clari March 20, 2011, 8:56 PM

    How about gofio? I've always thought it was the funniest name. My mother would always but it for my sister and I; and she would tell us to put some in our mouths and say "GOFIOO!!" – as the mixture would go flying from our mouths all over the place! Good times. 😀

  • Trina March 17, 2011, 6:02 PM

    My Angelo had to present a country to his class. He decided to present the Dominican Republic. We brought in a flag, many photos, a map, baseball memorobilia, and, to his classmate's delight, I brought a blender and all the ingredients to make 'morir soñando.' Angelo talked about life in the DR and his favorite subject, baseball. I made everyone "milkshakes", as they referred to them, and they all loved it, many asking Angelo for the recipe. Angelo came out of it with an a+! Couldn't have done it without you, Clara and Ilana!

  • Aunt Clara March 17, 2011, 11:41 AM

    True fact that I just made up: Morir Soñando was the working title for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but after the initial screening the marketing dept. suggested the change.

  • Keith R March 17, 2011, 10:47 AM

    I remember the first time my wife offered to make for me "morir soñando," I wondered if I was being offered a tasty poison… and when she explained to me its principal ingredients — including the all-important DOMINICAN (not just any!) vanilla — I thought it couldn't possibly taste good. Boy was I wrong! I love it and my kids grew up regarding it as a treat — so much so, that if you wish to invoke instant excitement in them, ask them if they'd like to have a "morir soñando." Lord help the young lady that marries my son if she does not know how to make a proper "morir soñando"!

    As for odd names of unclear origin, how about "jalao"? I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for that one.

    • Aunt Clara April 5, 2015, 7:48 PM

      Jalao probably comes from “jalar” a bastardization of the verb “halar” (to pull). Since it is made with a caramel-like honey or molasses base, there is quite a bit of pulling in its preparation.