The Dominican Republic’s most common meal is called La Bandera, which means “The Flag.” It’s a simple dish that usually features fried plantains, red beans, rice, and goat. But for our purposes, we’ll use fish.
The Dominican Republic’s most common meal is called La Bandera, which means “The Flag.” It’s a simple dish that usually features fried plantains, red beans, rice, and goat. But for our purposes, we’ll use fish. When arranged on a plate, it resembles the Dominican Flag.
Give this a try:
Pan-fry a bunch of sliced plantains in hot oil, lightly salt them, and allow them to dry on a paper towel.
2–3 cups red kidney beans
1 red onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
½ tsp. coriander
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
Salt & pepper to taste
Start by caramelizing the onions over medium heat in a little oil. Add garlic and coriander. Sauté for a couple minutes. Add tomato paste, vegetable stock, and salt & pepper. Stew beans for 20 – 25 minutes, then simmer them. Use a potato masher to turn parts of them into a paste while they're simmering. Keep simmering until they reach a nice creamy consistency.
Whenever rice is cooked well, there is a layer that sticks to the pot. Normally, we pitch this part. Not in the Dominican Republic! This crispy layer of cooked rice is called Concon and is a delicacy, served separately from the rice. A good Dominican cook can make a great tender rice and wonderful crispy Concon.
2½ cups white rice
3 tbsp. cooking oil
1½ tsp. salt
4 cups water
Bring everything to a boil. Then cook, covered, for 20 minutes. For the Concon, keep the heat on low and scrape the rice from the bottom as it becomes delicious and crispy.
3 pounds of local whitefish, cut into cubes
3 roughly chopped onions
6 cloves of garlic
4 tomatoes roughly chopped
2 sweet peppers julienned
2 cups vegetable stock
Coriander, salt & pepper to taste
3 tbsp. oil
3 tbsp. lime juice
Finely chopped onion
3 tspn. oregano
Salt & pepper
Mix marinade and marinate fish for more than an hour in the fridge. Then, sauté in hot oil until seared on all sides. Add onions, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers and sauté for five minutes. Add vegetable stock and simmer for a couple of hours. Season and adjust liquid as needed.
These days, Dominican fishing villages pull countless varieties of food from the sea. The usual suspects include shrimp, marlin, dorado, and lobster. These are cooked and flavored by the locals with milder spices like garlic, onions, coriander, and oregano.
In general, Dominican cooking is a simple cuisine. There are heavy Spanish influences coupled with the cultural and cooking practices of the native Tainos. There is definitely a Latin feel to the cuisine, but it’s not as heavily spiced as in other West Indian countries. In fact, there’s no real spice market here, to speak of, as is common in other nearby countries.
Casabe is an example of a Taino contribution. It’s a flat bread made from the yucca plant. The plant is shredded, soaked, and pressed to remove its poisonous components. That way, it’s delicious, not deadly. Casava, another Taino dish, is a type of fritter that is stuffed with meat, chicken, or fish.
Christopher Columbus (As in The) arrived in what we now call the Dominican Republic on December 5, 1492. That’s right, the first “fishing boats” in recorded Dominican history were the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Go figure.
By the time Columbus arrived on behalf of the Spanish, the island’s history was already storied. The native Tainos had been around for hundreds of years. In fact, they still have a cultural influence in the Dominican Republic today.
Next time, we’ll look at a recipe for La Bandera, one of the most popular dishes in Dominican cooking.