Locrio de arenque (Rice and smoked herrings)

Locrio de arenque (Rice and smoked herrings)

Now and then you come across food snobs who make a distinction between ‘haute cuisine’ delicacies and what they consider to be comida de pobre, inferior foods. This is usually connected to social class and custom, and almost always with economic necessity. As time goes by many of these distinctions have become blurred. Dominicans have some colorful popular sayings on the matter:

“Arenque es comida de policías” (Herrings is policemen’s food) I heard when I was a kid. It happens that, since policemen aren’t exactly well-paid, one of the few things they could afford on a daily basis was smoked herrings, one of the cheapest foods decades ago. It doesn’t really help that it has such a strong smell that there is little chance that your neighbors wouldn’t find out what the menu of the day is when cooking it. The saying about herring been a lesser food is true no more, the price of this humble food doesn’t make it affordable for the poor now.

“El que come tayota, bebe cerveza o besa una vieja no ha comido ni ha bebido ni ha besado” (He who eats christophines [chayote], drinks beer or kisses an old woman has not eaten, drunk nor kissed) says the old joke. Christophines being pretty tasteless they need to be cooked accompanied by foods with strong flavors and seasoning to make them appealing, hence their fame as a lower food. Personally it is one of my favorites, although I admit that it takes a little more cooking talent to make it into a delicious dish lest one of your guests repeat the other old joke about christophines: “It tastes the same whether you eat it or put it in your pocket”.

Locrio de arenque (Rice and smoked herrings)

“A falta de pan casabe” (In lack of bread, cassava bread), although it really is the Dominican equivalent to “when life gives you lemons…” it also suggest that casabe is one of our lower foods, a cheap, inferior substitute to bread. That of course is due to the fact that it is indeed one of those foods of humble origins (but with a long, honorable history, it was bequeathed to us by the first settlers of the island), not helped at all by it not having any distinctive taste and being only good for accompanying other foods. I’ve seen casabe served with delicious dips in good restaurants in the same way as crackers, pitta bread or tortilla chips might be used, so perhaps it’s on its way to shaking off its humble origins.

Each country has its lesser foods, besides these there are many more in our country, that doesn’t make them any less important part of our vernacular cuisine. But one country’s ‘inferior’ food can be another’s haute cuisine: the delicious traditionally peasant foods of the Mediterranean and the Middle East are now served with great flourishes in the world’s trendy brasseries: tortilla de patatas, gazpacho, hummus, ful medames and polenta for example. Is it a matter of time before we see locrio de arenque joining this list?

 Aunt Clara & Aunt Ilana
Locrio de arenque (Rice and smoked herrings)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A delicious mixture of two ingredients (rice and herrings) arrived from faraway lands that have been combined into a well-known dish of our Dominican cuisine. Although it was originally a humble dish, this is not the case anymore. Its strong flavors will keep you coming for more.
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 lbs of smoked herrings
  • 4 cups of rice
  • 4 cups of water
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped red peppers
  • ¼ cup of capers (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon mashed garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped celery
  • 1 spoon finely chopped parsley (optional)
  • Salt
  1. Soak the herrings for two hours in abundant water. After soaking get rid of this water.
  2. Boil the herrings in clear water until it starts to come apart. Let it cool down.
  3. Clean of bones and skin. Reserve the water (complete 6 cups adding fresh water if necessary).
  4. In an iron pot heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, add the celery, parsley, tomato paste, peppers, capers and garlic.
  5. Cook and stir for a minute and then add the herrings.
  6. Once the ingredients in the pot are heated through, add the water that you had reserved and bring to a boil, season with salt to taste.
  7. When it breaks a boil add the rice. Stir regularly to avoid excessive sticking.
  8. When all the liquid has evaporated, cover with a tight fitting lid and simmer over very low heat. Simmer 15 minutes and uncover, stir, mix in the remaining oil and cover again.
  9. Cook another 5 minutes. Try the rice, it should be firm but tender inside.
  10. If necessary, cover and leave another 5 minutes over very low heat.
Receive Aunt Clara’s Updates
Find out about new recipes, articles, and sometimes exclusive content.

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Patricia Nicolas December 11, 2013, 3:54 PM

    I’m Haitian and we make the same dish…glad I was able to find the recipe. Thanks.

    • Aunt Clara December 16, 2013, 8:06 PM

      We have a lot more in common than just an island. :)

  • Daisy May 30, 2013, 1:04 PM

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. My mom does not live here in the U.S., and I am in one of those moods, where I am missing my culture and this dish is one of those simple pleasures that remind me of how wonderful it is to be ‘Dominican’.

    I plan on serving it up with a side salad of lettuce, tomatoes and avocado.


  • karla February 15, 2012, 8:23 AM

    soy mexicana pero mi esposo es dominicano y no le gusta la comida mexicana =P quiero aprender a cocinarle diferentes tipos de comidas q a el le gustan :) espero q me quede bien esto xD

  • George June 30, 2011, 12:49 PM

    I grew up on that. Smoked herring is also great with eggplant. Good memories.

  • Lisa June 29, 2011, 3:34 PM

    Aunt Clara, I live in Columbia, MD, near Baltimore.

    • Aunt Clara February 15, 2012, 8:35 AM

      Sorry I didn't see your reply earlier. Is there perchance a lonely Dominican bodega that you know of? I would start there.

  • MsNani30 June 29, 2011, 2:28 PM

    As a poor girl who grew up in the DR this was the most popular dish in my house (even though any of my family was a police officer LOL) I love it then and now with all of my schooling and college degree I love it even more. Locrio de arenque is part of who I am. My grandma's locrio is the best. If you have the opportunity to eat go ahead you will not be disappointed and if you are able make it yourself is very easy to do. Enjoy.

  • Lisa June 8, 2011, 5:02 AM

    Where can I get smoked herring?

  • Tonia January 21, 2011, 11:45 AM

    This sounds great! My dad loves herring, I will have to make this for him. I never knew to make it in this way.