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Grown In Dominican Republic – Yuca

Grown In Dominican Republic – Yuca

Yuca (pronounced jooka in the Dominican Republic) is also called manioc or cassava root. It is a favorite of Dominicans everywhere. This tuber is fairly easy to grow and can be prepared in many different ways.

Wax covered Yuca / Manihot esculenta
Wax covered Yuca / Manihot esculenta

The botanical name for Yuca is Manihot esculenta, not to be confused with yucca which is another plant entirely. The plant was originally from brought South America to the Caribbean islands. It is a woody evergreen shrub ranging in height from 6 to 8 feet tall. Ground, the leaves can be used in herbal remedies and the new flowers can be eaten.

A field full of yuca behind some platyano plants in Salcedo / Hermanas Mirabal.
A field full of yuca behind some platyano plants in Salcedo / Hermanas Mirabal.

Yuca is picked by hand the roots or tubers remind me of a giant, long, hard potato mixed with a deformed pithy carrot. The entire shrub needs to be pulled from the ground and the tubers removed. There are usually many tubers on a single plant. This root is 2 to 3 inches around and can be from 6 to 12 inches (I’ve seen longer) long. It can even look like a kid size, deformed baseball bat. One plant can produce many tubers. The tubers of the sweet yuca are a little smaller than the bitter variety. Yuca grows fast, is plentiful, and can grow from the roots left in the ground or by placing one of the tubers back into the hole where the plant was pulled (just like a potato).

That is one big yuca..or is it a baseball bat?
That is one big yuca..or is it a baseball bat?

Preparing Yuca

The two main types of Yuca are bitter and sweet. The bitter needs to be rinsed well to remove the poisons and the sweet can just be boiled or eaten raw if so desired.

The tuber is brown on the outside and has a white to cream colored hard flesh on the inside. They don’t have a long shelf life so make sure to put them in the fridge and use them within a few days. As soon as the white flesh is exposed to air it will start turning black. Usually the roots that are purchased in the stores are covered in wax or frozen.

Wax covered yuca.
Wax covered yuca.

Peeling is a real chore (you can cheat by putting them in the microwave for a few minutes or boiling with the skin on for a short time as this can make the peeling process a little easier). First make sure you have a sharp knife, as this tuber is quite hard and difficult to peal. Since it is so hard cutting it into smaller sections makes the job easier. As you peel the sections make sure to keep the peeled sections in water so they don’t turn brown. Peel the brown outside layer and the thin layer that is between the skin and the flesh. I find it is easier to boil the tubers in salted water for a short time to soften them up a bit, and then peel them. You can remove the core if it is yucky and stringy, if not leave it.

The sweet yucca, after it is cooked, can be eaten as is. I like to pan fry the cooked pieces and get them a little crispy. They are also great cut into strips and deep fried like french fried potatoes. They can be used like a potato and are good in stews and soups. These starchy tubers are an important ingredient in Sancocho. Yuca can be used to thicken up soup just as a potato does. Get some yuca recipes here.

Fresh unwashed yuca in Mercado Modelo
Fresh unwashed yuca in Mercado Modelo

Casabe

The original inhabitants of the island, the Taino Indians, made a bread using the bitter yucca root. Casabe or Cassava bread is made much the same way then as it is now. It is a Dominican cuisine staple and is a much-desired accompaniment for many typical Dominican dishes. With the commercial preparation of this traditional bread it is again becoming an everyday and readily available food. In the past this bread was made by the locals and distributed only locally by the homemakers that worked hard to make this labor intensive staple. This was a way to make money for their families. Now it is made commercially and is readily available throughout the island. It is even shipped to USA and elsewhere.

To make the Casabe the bitter yucca root must be prepared correctly, as the root is poisonous (containing hydrocyanic acid). The outside brown skin and the hard white layer underneath are pealed away. The core is also discarded and only the inner white flesh is used. The inner white flesh is grated using guayos. Then is soaked. The juice must be squeezed out either in a long canoe type vessel called a matapee or wrung out in a towel to remove the poisonous starch. It is then dried slightly in the open air. Then it needs to be pounded and sifted to make a flour. This flour is then spread on a large, heated, flat round iron pan or mold about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Then it is baked atop a specially shaped oven, called a buren griddle, until set using moderate heat. It is then flipped over and cooked until done and left to dry in the sun until it is crispy.

Casabe bread is high in vegetable fiber, starch, calcium and Vitamin C. It has a very low fat content and is also low in protein. It is can be eaten by persons who are gluten intolerant. This thin, hard round bread can keep for many months without getting stale or moldy. It is used to accompany many Dominican dishes. It is a must have with Asopao/ Soup and Sancocho (I like to just drop it in and let it get soft). It is great baked with a little green (olive) oil and salt. It can be used as a tortilla chip and dipped into just about any dip one could imagine because of its subtle flavor. Slap on some jam and use it like bread. Toast it and use it for dunking in coffee, tea or cocoa. There are so many ways to use this versatile food.

Casabe bread packaged
Casabe bread packaged

Interesting Yuca Facts and Legends

*Tapioca is also made from the cassava flour, which is also known, as tapioca flour. The pearls and starch of tapioca come from this plant.

*Cassava flour (tapioca flour) is commonly used as a food thickener and is also used as a binder in pharmaceutical tablets.

*Yuca is also the name given to rock music in Venezuela

*The extract from the plant has been used with surprising success on arthritis and rheumatism sufferers in herbal remedies/ Hierbas Medicinales

*The bitter variety may be used to treat scabies, diarrhea, and dysentery. Manioc flour may be used to help dry weeping skin.

*The plant has already been used to eradicate brain tumors in laboratory rats.

*If you’re on a diet 1/4 cup of yuca (considered a starchy vegetable) can count as a starch/ grain serving (according to the
South Beach Diet plan). It is a type B carb falling between brown rice and a baked potato.

*Use starch from the yuca the same way you can use cornstarch

*In old times it was added to wet laundry before ironing as a clothing stiffener.

*Dominican empanadas, deep-fried dough pockets stuffed with meat, are made with yucca flour.

*Panesico are baked logs of yucca flour and pork fat and are considered a specialty of the Cibao region.

*Bolas de yuca are deep-fried balls of yucca flour.

*Jojadra are powdery ginger cookies made of yucca starch.

Recipes 1 – Sanchocho & Platano

Dominican Recipes Page 1 – Sanchocho & Platanos

When I first came to Dominican Republic I had no idea what a Platano – Plantain was or how to use it. I thought it was a fat banana at first sight. This got many laughs as I tried to peal it to eat it like a banana. I have learned and also now I do enjoy cooking with this gree banana looking vegetable. And of course, there is Sanchocho, the food that Dominicans are most proud of. It is the favorite of all.

These are a compilation of things I have learned in my limited cooking experiences here in The Dominican Republic. Some recipes I have changed a little to make them my own. Other recipes are traditional Dominican and cannot be changed. If you try any of these recipes and you like or have an idea for a change let me know. If you have a special recipe you would like me to add please send them my way with a picture or 2.

Sancocho | What is Platano and what does one with it? | Monfongo | Mangú | Tostones | Platano Maduro | Platano Frito As Bread

Sancocho

Sancocho cooking on the fire with the meat ready to be added
Sancocho cooking on the fire with the meat ready to be added

Sancocho is Dominican Republic’s favorite. The countries signature dish is also known as the official dish of the country. This hearty stew type dish is traditionally made with 7 different types of meat. It can also be made with whatever meat and vegetables you have on hand. There are as many versions of this recipe as there are stars in the sky (maybe not that many, but very close).
It is normally made on special occasions. Many people like to cook it for Christmas. It does take some time to prepare but it is well worth the effort. Enjoy this hearty stew with some rice and avocado and you’ll think you are in Dominican Republic yourself!

3 lbs. chicken
2 lbs. pork chops or ham bones included
2 lbs. beef with bones
1 lb. goat meat
2 lbs. assorted sausages
4 large unripe platanos cut into large pieces
1 lb. potatoes
2 lbs. yucca of cassava cut in pieces
2 lbs. malanga cut in pieces
2 lbs. Spanish pumpkin
5 ears of corn on the cob cut in chunks
1 lb. yams cut into pieces
6 liters of water
4 TBSP oil
1 1/2 TBSP oregano
5 tsp. salt
2 sour oranges if not available use 4 lemons
2 TBSP celery
2 green bell pepper cut in large pieces
3 medium size onions
1 TBSP garlic (smashed)
oregano
thyme
cilantro or parsley
2 cubes of chicken or beef bouillon
2 tsp. vinegar
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce (English Sauce) or soy sauce

Instructions

1. Cut the chicken in different pieces, wash the meat (except the sausages) and rub with sour orange or lemons. Cut into small pieces.
2. Brown the beef in the oil with herbs, onions, garlic, pepper, Worcestershire sauce (Salsa Americana), and salt for 20 minutes. Add pork and simmer 15 minutes. Add little water as necessary so it doesn’t stick Add the chicken with the stock and simmer another 10 minutes.
3. Bring the water to a boil and add the veggies and simmer for about 10 minutes
4. Add the meat and simmer until the veggies are soft. Mash some of these veggies and return to the pot to thicken the broth.
5. MY FAVORITE STEP. Put in a bowl. Serve with rice and avocado on the side. Add some hot sauce to taste. Lift the spoon to your mouth, close your eyes and savor the flavor of the country.

Mama Pura’s Recipes (Dominican traditional cooking Book 1) – Amazon book available in Paperback and Kindle

Platano – Plantain

Platanos on a truck at the Mercado Modelo
Platanos on a truck at the Mercado Modelo

What is a platano (plantain) and what do you do with it?
Platanos/ Plantains are in the Banana family. What is thought to be a tree is really an herb, the worlds largest herb for that matter. It has a compacted, water-filled leaf stalk that is composed of leaf sheaths that overlap each other and grow from an underground stem called a rhizome, unlike a trees woody stalk.

This plant can grow as high as 20 feet (6 meters) in height, which is about as tall as a two story house. There are over 500 different types of bananas including green, red and yellow versions.

A young Platano Tree
A young Platano Tree

The platano looks like very large bananas and are usually not eaten raw, they need to be cooked. They are very high in potassium and virtually fat free. These fruits are very versatile as they can be boiled, baked, or fried. Served as a vegetable, starch, or made into a sweet dessert. They can be used unripe or very ripe. An unripe platano is green, hard, and very starchy. The riper they get the more yellow and sweeter they become as the starch turns to sugar. They turn from solid green to a yellow orangish color with dark spots to black, when they become very soft and mushy. They can be used no matter how ripe or unripe they are. When they are green they closely resemble potatoes and are not sweet. As they become riper they become sweeter and the texture changes. The very black platanos are usually used in deserts because they are so sweet. If you fry a green platano it makes crunchy pieces while frying a sweet one the pieces are soft.

Mofongo

Monfongo in Pilón
Monfongo in Pilón

Mofongo is another dish made from Platanos. The platanos are fried then mashed chunky with different types of meat and seasonings added. It is then served with a broth you can to moisten the typical dish. It is served in a Pilón. As soon as I get a decent recipe for this typical dish I’ll put it here.

A Taste of Paradise: A Feast of Authentic Caribbean Cuisine and Refreshing Tropical Beverages for Health and Vitality – Amazon book and Kindle editions

Mangú

Mangu with onions and some coffee for breakfast
Mangu with onions and some coffee for breakfast

Mangú is a very typical Dominican breakfast favorite. It can be served for other meals but it is typically for breakfast. Mangú closely resembles mash potatoes in appearance and texture but the flavor is very different. It is made from the green platano (plantain), the hard banana looking vegetable that is seen everywhere in the country. There are as many different ways to prepare mangú as there are preparers.

I usually figure about 1/2 to 3/4’s of a large platano as a serving for the average human.

For Mangú it is best to cut the platano into about 3 pieces lengthwise (I also divide each piece in half lengthwise). Put the pieces in a pot covered with water (add a little salt if you would like) and boil those pieces to death. They have to be nice and soft. It usually takes 20 minutes or longer. Add water as needed to keep them submerged. Just make sure they are soft. Much easier to mash when they’re soft and this way you won’t get lumps.

Now those platanos are soft and ready for the next step. It is time to decide what you want to add for the mashing process (while mashing sauté up some onions, red if you have them, to put on top of or inside the mash).

Preparing platano for cooking
Preparing platano for cooking

Pulverizing them! Some use the water the platanos were boiled in to mash them. Some add a bouillon cube, stock, bacon grease, small pieces of cooked meat (bacon or ham) to flavor the mash. Some use milk as in making mash potatoes. Try all the ways, variety is always good. Add the liquid slowly so as not to get them too runny. I like to add a little green oil (olive oil) or a little butter also. Use a potato masher, blender, hand mixer or food processor. I was taught to use the bottom of a beer bottle. This is what my friends and I use. Anyhow, just start mashing them up til they are nice and smooth. Add the onions or some cheese while mashing if you’d like. Keep mashing until it is nice and smooth. Taste testing all the while to get the flavors correct.

To serve: Fry up some eggs (scrambled are typical), and some fried salami, ham or maybe some fried cheese, slop that wonderful Mangú on the plate. Top it with some of those sautéed onions. Then savor the flavor of a typical Dominican breakfast….yummmm…..

Tostones/ Fried Platano Chips

Platano Frito ready for eating - Tostones and a Tostonera
Platano Frito ready for eating – Tostones and a Tostonera

Peel green plantain and cut in in slices about 1/2 inch thick, usually cut on an angle, I don’t know why and it’s not really that important but this is the “Dominican way”.

Heat up some oil (like making french fries) and drop the slices into the oil. Fry them until they are just a little soft. They are cooked soft but not crispy. Remove from the oil and put on paper to drain some of the oil. As soon as you can touch them, smash ’em! Use anything handy, I use a beer bottle again. The bottom of a plate, anything flat will do. If you are lucky enough to have a Tostonera (this is 2 round pieces of wood, hinged, with a knob-like handle in the center pictures here) whose sole purpose is to smash tostones.

Press each piece to flatten it out, it will get a little scalloped edge sometimes. I like mine very thin but normally they are flattened to about half of the original thickness. Then put the flat platano back into the oil and cook until it has a nice light brown color, just a thin outside crust. Remove from the oil. Drain. Salt if desired.

These can be served plain, with ketchup/ketchu is very typical. I like mine with some vinegar or, typical Unitedstatesian, with Ranch Dressing. Any way you like them they are great. Serve them as you would any potato or french fries. Enjoy!

Note: You can slice these as thin as possible and fry them up like potato chips. They are a nice tasty snack.

Platano Maduro/ Fried Sweet Plantains

Platano Maduro are made with the black skinned or really yellow ripe platanos, as sweet and ripe as they get. They are peeled and cut down the length of the platano into long, flat strips. Between 1/2 to 1 inch thick, depending on your mood.

Fry these pieces in a little green (olive) oil, lard, or any other type of oil or butter. Do not cover the platano in oil, just enough so the oil is halfway up the side of the platano. Fry, turning until they are golden brown and caramelized. Drain. These can be served as you would any potato side dish. The flavor and texture are much different than the tostones.

Platano Frito As Bread

A Hamburger with a Fried Platano Bun
A Hamburger with a Fried Platano Bun

Here is an idea that is really easy and so tasty and a very different way to make a sandwich.

Cook up the Platano Frito the first cooking as normal. Then take a few or the pieces and mash them together to make a big bread sized piece of platano. Fry it up and fill it with sandwich makings.

I like to use it to make a hamburger with all the fixings.

Dominican Food

Dominican Republic Food

1.Breakfast – Desayuno | 2.Lunch – La Bandera Dominicana | 3.Sancocho | 3.Dinner – Cena | 4.Dessert – Postre | 5.Fruits – Frutas and Juices – Jugos |

The food of Dominican Republic / Comida de República Dominicana is a blend of many different cultural dishes all combined to make a style of cooking that is unique to this island. With influences from the Taino Indians, Spaniards, African Slaves and many other immigrants, the Dominican dishes or comida criolla has evolved. The Dominicans have created their own food and cooking styles into dishes that have their own distinctive flavors, tastes and appearances.

Dominican food is high in carbohydrates and starch. Most recipes are not complicated and are made from very natural and locally grown foods that are readily available in gardens, trees and from local vendors. Add a little locally raised meat or a fresh catch of fish, and some sazóne (spices) and you have a typical Dominican meal. Remember that typical Dominican foods are usually not spicy. In local type eateries there is a high chance that you will not see any black pepper. If you ask many will give you a bottle of hot sauce instead. They, in general, do not like their foods hot/ pica.

Salami, Fried Cheese and Platano.
Salami, Fried Cheese and Platano.

Breakfast – Desayuno

Breakfast Dominican style has many options from which to choose.

One of the traditional foods served for breakfast is Mangú, which is mashed plantains with some flavoring added and topped with lots of red onions. The orange squash/ auyama is used to make mazamorra that is also served with onions. Spaghetti is also a favorite of the Dominicans. Fried cheese is also a favorite served with fried salami and eggs. People love their oatmeal/ avena that usually a bit runny cooked with milk and is very sweet. Of course, there is always a good variety of fruits from which to choose. I have seen many people eating Sancocho and Mondongo for breakfast as well. To wash it all down have some jugo de avena, hot chocolate made with water or milk, some fresh juice and of course a hot cup of espresso style coffee made fresh to order.

Lunch – La Bandera Dominicana

La Bandera Dominicana/ The Dominican Flag
La Bandera Dominicana/ The Dominican Flag

The typical Dominican lunch, called La Bandera Dominicana/ The Dominican Flag (La Bandera recipe), consists of beans/ habichuelas and rice/ arroz, meat/ carne or fish/ piscado, and a salad/ ensalada of some sort.

First, the plate is filled with the most rice I have ever seen heaped on a plate. The habichuelas/ juicy beans come in black, red, white or green, depending on the type of bean used. These beans are usually served in a small bowl or cup on the side and you pour this on top of the rice, along with some of the sauce from the meat if you so desire. You eat this with a large spoon and a knife used for pushing the food onto the spoon. The meat is usually cut into pieces and is stewed. The portion size of meat is dwarfed when it sits next to the hugh amount of rice on the plate. There are different varieties of salads that can be served the most popular being, Green Salad / Ensalada Verde, Avacado Salad/ Ensalada de Aguacate, Russian Potato Salad/ Ensalada Rusa, and a boiled salad I love with tayota, carrots and potatoes. When the beans are made just right and the rice has the perfect amount of salt, along with a little concón/ crispy fried rice from the bottom of the pan, this meal is wonderful.

I can see why most Dominicans eat this meal everyday of their lives. It is a joke among my Dominican friends, if they do not eat rice everyday they will not live. After living here for many years I have come to believe this as truth.

Sancocho Dominican style
Sancocho Dominican style

Sancocho

Sancocho is the national dish of the Dominican people. It is made with a variety of meats and vegetables such as pork, beef, goat, fish, sweet potatoes. The recipe for sancocho is on our recipe pages. There is also another type of soup – stew type dish called asopao which is meat, veggies and rice in a flavorful broth. Make some for yourself, here is the recipe for Sancocho.

One of the many night time food vendors.

Dinner – Cena

The evening meal is usually something light because the main meal is served midday. You will see Dominicans eating a sandwich or a soup or stew such as Sancocho.

They do eat full dinners if they go out to a restaurant in the evening but at home it is usually light. Maybe they will pick up a snack on the street such as Chicharones, pasteles en hoja a hamburger or some fruit. Along many of the streets throughout the country you can find small trucks selling all types of fried foods and sandwiches. The roasted pork sandwiches are wonderful. Some snacks/ picadera consisting of olives, cheese and salami to go with a cold drink with friends are also popular.

Dominican-style bizcocho for sale in a Colmado

Dessert – Postre

The Dominicans know how to make desserts and sweets just right. They use all the local ingredients to make candies and cakes like no other place in the world.

Try out a mixture of beans, condensed milk and some other sweet and interesting ingredients. The name of this sweet mix is Habichuelas con dulse (habichuelas con dulse recipe *the link is to the old html web site). It is a traditional dessert served during Easter but can also be found the year round if you make your quest in the right places. It is also made into an ice cream that can be bought at Bon’s Helados. I never thought of beans as a dessert and ice cream. This is a must taste for sure. There is also the Dominican cake called Bizcocho that you can get with or without icing. The Flan is sweet and creamy and the candies made from coconut, papaya, almonds and other local fruits are yummy.

Fresh fruits from a vendor.

Fruits – Frutas and Juices – Jugos

The fruits grown here are the best. There are a wide variety of fruits that you have never seen or heard of before. Some do look ugly but don’t snub them because of the way they look. You have never eaten a pineapple/ piña until you have tried one here in República Dominicana.

The Mangos (season May thru September), of which there are many types, sizes and textures, are wonderful and very messy.

Mangos are best eaten with a knife as the little strings of fiber get stuck in the teeth. Do not let the mango juice get on your clothes because it stains.

Papaya/ lechosa is unbelievably tasty and nothing like what you will find in other countries.

An Avacado grown in DR has so much more flavor than any I tasted elsewhere.

Buy a banana or a peeled orange for a few pesos while walking the street for a quick pick me up. Just make sure that when you visit you do not pass up a taste you will always remember.

Zapote fruit, the beautiful seed inside and some juice blended with ice and milk. Yumm.

You can buy a juice on the street fresh squeezed and many restaurants serve their juices fresh as well.

There are a few different types of oranges. The china, which is the sweet orange, is used to make juice (sometimes it is mixed with sugar to make it even sweeter) and to eat whole. Then there is the bitter orange/ naranja sevillana that is used for cooking.

The Guava/ guayaba, a pink colored, pear-shaped fruit with yellow skin, is wonderful when made into juice or a greenish colored jelly (try it made into a paste and eaten with some cheese, I was shocked that this tastes so good).

I highly recommend everyone tries some zapote juice, the fruit is ugly but the juice is sooo yummy. The Guanabana and Passion fruit/ Chinola also makes a scrumptious juice. To learn more about the products grown in Dominican Republic go to our Grown in DR page.

Whatever you choose to eat while you are in Dominican Republic you should try new things. Things that may look strange to you might be a new yummy for your pallet. Some you might not like but I am sure that most of the cuisine in this country you will enjoy. You should keep your mind open to new taste sensations and try new foods. Whenever you visit a new place it is always important to try something different. You just might be pleasantly pleased. Try going to a restaurant and asking for something typical Dominican. If invited to a persons home for dinner make sure you try everything, no matter what it is. Even if your not crazy about what is served let them know how much you enjoyed everything. They are always hospitable and will probably be watching you while dining to make sure you are comfortable and happy. Many times when you are sitting in a restaurant, having a drink or snack in a Colmado or enjoying any type of food or drink Dominicans will pass by and say “Buen Provecho”. This means “Enjoy your meal”. Dominicans are friendly people and they use this phrase often.

Each part of this small island country has their own foods and recipes. Each dish is cooked in different ways depending on which part of the country you are in and which part of the country the person cooking comes from. There are also have different fruits and veggies that grow and thrive in certain parts of the country. Strawberries are grown best in Constanza, the Bani area is known for its Mangos. No matter where you are in our small island country you will find the most amazing tasting fruits, vegetables and foods all with its own Dominican taste and flavor. Be adventurous and enjoy our original Dominican sabor. Check out our Dominican Recipes and cooking terms.

We have our food words list so you will know how to say the different foods and exactly what they are. Impress your friends…