Follow us on a culinary tour of the Dominican Republic and learn about our regional cuisines, and what they have to offer.
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The occasional visitor could be forgiven for thinking that there are no regional cuisines in the Dominican Republic because this a small country. Up to a point, this is not far from the truth, but to any Dominican, it is obvious that each region is best known for certain dishes.
La Linea - Northwest
The northwestern region of the Dominican Republic, known to Dominicans as "La Linea" (the border), is an area with impressive coasts, beautiful beaches of golden sand, tropical desert forests, cacti, and mesquite-covered hills.
Oregano grows wild in the area, and the large goat population that feeds on it --purportedly seasoning themselves as they walk and breathe-- is the best-known part of its cuisine. The northwest's flagship dish is chivo liniero (or picante), a braised, spicy goat seasoned with aromatic herbs and abundant oregano.
In the coastal area there is a small but important fishing industry. Seafood dishes, especially lambí (conch) are very popular.
The northern region shares some dishes with the Cibao valley (the central part of the island). The valley is an agricultural region with fertile land, majestic mountains, and a moderate climate.
Such is the case of maíz caquiao, known in the south as chacá.
Santo Domingo and San Pedro
Santo Domingo and the southeast have always been a magnet for immigrants, which has left an imprint on the region's cuisine.
At the end of the ninetieth century, a wave of immigrants from the Middle East arrived on our shores and settled mainly in San Pedro de Macorís and Santo Domingo. Kipes and tipili are descendants of the Lebanese kibbeh and tabouleh. Our niños envueltos and arroz con fideos evolved from the Egyptian malfouf mahshi and ruz bil shereya, respectively.
Another group of immigrants who settled in the southeast was "cocolos," coming from the British Caribbean. They gave San Pedro guavaberry, an alcoholic beverage, and johnnycake, which we turned into yaniqueques.
The southwestern cuisine bears the imprint of our African ancestors.
Dishes like chambre, chacá, and chenchén originated in this region. The first one is a bean-based stew, the second and third are corn-based dishes, sweet and savory, respectively. Goat meat is also popular in this region of the country.
The beautiful Samaná peninsula, impressive and long-ago coveted by many an empire, lived in isolation until relatively recently. With coconut groves that extend as far as the eye can see, it's not surprising coconut is a fundamental part of its cuisine.
In our trips there, we also "discovered" the delicious pan de coco, a dish we hope will also become known throughout the rest of the country.
We invite you to discover our land and to enjoy this important aspect of our culture.
Pictures of Samana and Southwest licensed from Lucas Guzman Benady.