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Eating Out

Try mangú, the Dominican breakfast of champions, for a taste of island life

camarones cocidos en sal

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The traditional Dominican cuisine is a combination of Spanish, indigenous Taíno, and with some African influences. Also, dishes from Middle-Eastern origin have been adopted into the local Dominican cuisine. The “Quipe” for instance comes from the Lebanese kibbeh.

 

But if one takes most of his or her meals at an all-inclusive resort, however, then you don’t get any sense of how Dominicans really eat and drink. The bland “international” buffet fare or the ‘watered-down’ daiquiris at large resorts really can’t compete with the delicious, no-nonsense, high-quality cooking at many simple mom-and-pop restaurants, or the rum drinks on offer just outside the compound walls.

 

The Dominican eating culture depends on where they live.  Living at the coast or in the interior mountains. In both cases, most Dominican meat dishes involve pork. Pigs are farmed throughout the country. Dishes involving meat are very well cooked at Dominican restaurants, they are even stewed. This is kind of a tradition stemming from the lesser availability of refrigeration.

Seaside Dominican fishing villages, like those in Samana, have a great variety of seafood available. Dorado’s, shrimp, marlin, mahi-mahi, langostinos, and lobster are the most common.  Local villagers commonly eat on cheap, lesser-quality fish which often is stewed with Criolla (rice sort). Quality seafood is too expensive for the local Dominican people. The Dominican cuisine differs with other parts of the West Indies because of their milder spicing.

The ‘official breakfast’ of “the D.R.” ( the country affectionately is called D.R. by most Dominican Americans) is considered Mangú. This very humble dish of boiled plantains, laced with creamy butter or silky olive oil and accompanied by any number of hearty, savory sides, was brought to the Dominican by West African slaves in Spanish colonial times. Mangù is known as “los tres golpes” or “the three hits.”

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mangú

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MORO PESCADO FRITO Y TOSTONES

Most important meal of the day is lunchtime. Like it also is in Spain. Its most typical form, nicknamed “La Bandera”, The Flag, consists of rice, red beans with fish or meat (beef, chicken, pork).  Accompanied by a side dish or a salad. The lunch is often quite hearty and is eaten between noon and 2 pm.  

Dinner is still the main meal and still is most of the time “a family affair”. Popular main courses are mondongo, a tripe stew strictly for the strong of stomach.  Mofongo, a tasty blend of plantains, pork rinds and garlic. Or “bistec encebollado”, grilled steak with a topping of onions and peppers. Particularly in rural areas, like Samana, call for either chivo (roast goat) with cassava, a crispy, flatbread inherited from the Tainos, made with ground yucca roots; or sancocho, considered the national delicacy, a hearty stew with five different kinds of meat, four types of tuber and a bewildering array of vegetables and spices.   Chicken is omnipresent at all times.


Go for the delicious seafood for the best Samana offerings. Fish traditionally is prepared in one of these five ways: criolla, a tasty, slightly spicy tomato sauce; al ajillo, doused in a rich garlic sauce; al horno, roasted with lemon; al orégano, in a tangy sauce with fresh oregano and heavy cream; and especially prevalent on the Samaná Peninsula, con coco, a tomato, garlic and coconut milk blend.

You’ll find that the tastiest local fish are the mero (sea bass), chillo (red snapper) and carite (kingfish). Popular seafood includes also the langosta (clawless lobster), lambí (conch), camarones (shrimp), pulpo (octopus) and cangrejo (crab).

Where to eat

Eating out is not very expensive in Samana. That is, you stick to the humble and more modest-looking local establishments. They serve outstanding food. In the more formal restaurants, however, prices will be little higher. But by European and North American standards are still a great bargain. Either way, with the exception of the smaller cafeterías, you’ll be charged an eighteen percent sales tax (ITBIS) on your meal and a ten percent “service” charge. Standard practice is to tip an additional ten percent.


Cafeterías are by far the cheapest places to eat around Samana. These humble establishments, with some plastic tables and chairs, mostly have a glass case displaying a variety of typical and local foods.  Chicken stew,  fried fish, rice and beans, mangú and plátanos. One can get a meal here for under RD$100. Keep in mind though that you’re best off when frequenting them only at lunch. Then the food is still fresh. Later the day the dishes may have been standing for hours under the heat lamps.

Many comedores in the Dominican are a great resource for eating out too. These are very unpretentious, family-run, mom and dad, restaurants. Often these are little more than a hole in the wall, but often dishing up incredibly tasty “comida criolla”. This great meal will set you back like RD$150. That’s for a full meal. Check out the greasy goods of street vendors for a quick snack.  These are hawking chicharrones, crunchy bits of deep-fried chicken or pork. Or empanadas, flat fried pastries with a ground-beef filling. Or shredded barbecue pork sandwiches, boiled corn and split coconuts, all for approx RD$10; and peeled oranges for RD$3.

 

Often you’ll also encounter small children selling trays of home-made dulces for RD$2.

In Las Terrenas, you’ll find plenty of high-end dining restaurants. These generally feature an array of authentic international cuisine including French, Italian and Chinese.

EMB

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