“La Bandera” and other typical Dominican meals

by on Monday, 19 August 2013

“La Bandera” is a typical Dominican meal.

Wondering what you’ll eat in the Dominican Republic (DR) while on your ISV program? Dominican food is a mixed blend of African, Spanish and Taino Indian influences. While not heavily hot spiced like the neighbouring islands of Jamaica and Trinidad, the food draws a different range of spices to tingle and tempt taste-buds, with plenty of fresh herbs, garlic and tangy sauces.

To have a real cultural experience, eat locally and sample the local cuisine rather than always seeking out the food you eat regularly at home. Try local dishes during the Volunteer Project and on the ISV Adventure Tour like “la bandera” which contains rice, beans and chicken or other meat. Also, take advantage of the wide variety of delicious tropical fruits available.

The staple dish in the DR is rice and beans which is highly nutritious and tasty. This dish usually comes with fried chicken or pork and a basic salad (cabbage is used here a lot instead of lettuce as a salad base). Do not be surprised to see “green” tomatoes in a typical Dominican salad – they are crunchy and taste good too! Garlic, tomato and green peppers (capsicums) are all key ingredients in Dominican cooking) and are the base for most of the sauces used in the DR.

Tostones are fried plantain. Yummy, but beware of eating too many if you aren’t used to them!

For something spicy and adventurous try stewed goat or chivo picante (picante means spicy/hot). Goat tastes very similar to lamb for the uninitiated but is known to be a little boney. This is delicious and comes served with rice, tostones (fried plantain chips) and salad. The goats are grown in the west of the country and are fed fresh oregano which grows in abundance in the countryside giving their meat a unique and sweet flavour. Sancocho is one of the most famous dishes in the DR. This dish is made from five different meats, an amazing selection of tubers, vegetables and spices. Served as a hearty stew/soup, fresh avocados (when in season) are sliced on top.

Fresh seafood and fish are specialties in most restaurants here, from sea bass, parrot fish and tuna. These are all locally caught and served fried, poached, grilled or baked, plain or a la criolla (spicy tomato sauce), with garlic or con coco (with coconut) in certain parts of the country. Shrimps, lobster and crab can be found in most restaurants and are served simply to let the natural flavours speak for themselves. Some of the best places to taste sea food are the small shack type restaurants found on beaches where you can see a barbeque in place and pick what you want off the grill. Served with salad, French fries and a cool drink, imagine yourself relaxing under a palm tree and watching the waves as you tuck into your Caribbean tropical delight!

Mmmm, enjoy local Dominican café citos.

A lot of the food, especially in hotels, is deep-fried using coconut oil – so a word or warning when you first arrive is to try things in moderation and ease your delicate tummies into the buffet line gently. Coconut is a natural laxative and is a main cause for most upset tummies over here.

Real home grown organic fruits are readily available everywhere. Pineapples, passion fruit, mangos, papayas, oranges, star fruits (see image below), bananas, and many more, are often used fresh in smoothies/milkshakes or “batidas” as they called in the DR.

Dominican coffee ranks as one of the number one coffees in the world. Most Dominicans take it in small doses literally smothered in sugar – this is called a café cito.

Sodas are widely available over here, although there is not much choice in the range of diet sodas but the main sellers like Pepsi and Coca Cola can be bought nearly everywhere. Interesting to note that a soda is usually more expensive to buy than a shot of rum!

Starfruit (carambola) are one of the many interesting fruits available in the DR

From a responsible tourism perspective, try and aim for one less serving of meat per week. The UN estimates that meat production accounts for up to one fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. When choosing which meats to eat in the Dominican Republic, choose chicken over pork, lamb and beef. Pigs, cattle and sheep have much larger ecological footprints and emit huge amounts of methane (a very potent greenhouse gas).

We hope you’ll enjoy trying the local food by sampling La Bandera and much more!

To learn more about ISV’s program in the Dominican Republic visit our website: www.isvolunteers.org




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