Visitors who come to the Dominican Republic, especially those who come for a ‘holiday in the sun’ often arrive equipped with little background information about the country, its history and its culture.
North Americans and Europeans, who make up the majority of these tourists, will have had exposure to Mexican cooking as their only example of Latin American cuisine. For this reason they may assume that the food they will encounter in the DR will be similar to Mexican.
The main important difference is that Dominicans do not accompany their meals with flour or maize tortillas. This legacy of indigenous culture survives strongly in Mexico and Central America, but not in the Dominican Republic, probably because the indigenous inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola were wiped out by the Spanish before the middle of the 16th century. Some indigenous foods survive in Dominican cuisine, most notably casabe (cassava bread), but though popular, this is not a daily staple by any means.
Another characteristic that separates Mexican and Dominican eating habits is that Dominicans in general do not like spicy food. Some of my friends here have acquired a taste for it, and do enjoy spicy dishes from India and Mexico, but it is not traditional to Dominican cooking. For those who can’t live without the ‘kick’ of spicy food, restaurants will usually provide you with a bottle of hot sauce on request. Possibly the only spicy Dominican dishes are ‘chivo picante‘ – spicy goat, the typical dish of the northwest and sold at the roadside of Autopista Duarte and ‘rabo encedido‘ – an oxtail stew.
Avocadoes when in season are very popular here, as in Mexico, but unlike the Mexican guacamole they are eaten in chunks, not mashed and seasoned. They are usually served to accompany the main meal of rice, beans and meat, or asancocho or an asopao.
Adding salt and lemon to everything in sight, including your beer, is not customary here! Doing so will get you some inquisitive looks and an unwanted reputation.
The only countries in the region which shares many of the dishes and customs of Dominican cooking are neighbouring islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba. The rest of Latin America share one or two dishes with the Dominican cuisines but are called differently.
So visitors who come here expecting tortillas and guacamole may expect some surprises, but it is guaranteed that none of them will be unpleasant.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 4 plum tomatoes cut into cubes or 1 doz cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 bell peppers, cut into small pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- ½ cup of water
- 2 lb [0.9 kg] of shrimps, peeled and deveined
- ½ teaspoon of pepper (or more, to taste)
- 1½ teaspoon of salt (or more, to taste)
- In a saucepan heat the oil over low heat.
- Cook and stir the tomatoes, bell pepper, and garlic for a minute. Add tomato sauce and water. Simmer over low heat until all the vegetables are cooked through. Stir in the shrimp and simmer until the shrimp turn bright pink.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.