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Carnival Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Carnival / Carnaval Dominicano

Carnaval Dominicano an experience that everyone should have some time in his or her life. Visitors and Dominicans alike wait with anticipation for this time of year. The celebration brings with it so much color and tradition from the vivid colors of the costumes, the spirited music and lively dancing. The droves and crowds of humans with voices raised. Experiencing the electricity (even if the electric power may be out) coming from the participants and viewers alike as all join in the festivities. Carnival is a true Dominican experience.

Carnival is celebrated the entire month of Febrero/ February throughout the country of Dominican Republic filling each weekend with parades, events and competitions. Each town offers its own twist to the event. The celebration climaxes on or near the 27th of February, Dominican Independence Day.

The bright colors and smiling faces of Carnival Dominicano.
The bright colors and smiling faces of Carnival Dominicano.

Carnival – Early History | Video – Slaves Abused By Spanish Captors | Celebrations Worldwide | Video – Children Dancing | Carnival – Dominican Tradition | The Economy of Carnival | Video-The Dancing Girls, Fire Throwers | La Vega | Santo Domingo | The Vejiga | Celebration Locations | Roba la Gallina Video | Dominican Republic Carnival Characters, Pictures and Their History | Complete list of our Videos of Carnival | Links to all the Picture Albums |

The History of Carnaval

The use of masks to symbolize spiritual, supernatural and unknown spirit world entities has been used since before recorded history. Africa tribes and Native Americans, among the many ancient peoples, used masks to either depict, get the attention of, or to hide themselves from a higher, or more spiritual being. The natives of the island, the Tainos, and the natives of the surrounding islands had their own festivities long before the arrival of the Spaniards. Their celebrations were called areitos. Mainly they were to commemorate planting and harvest times. They also honored weddings, death and other significant happenings in their lives with these celebrations. They would use body decorations, tattoos, paint, jewelry, and masks during these festivals.

Later came the arrival of the Conquers and their African slaves. These new arrivals on the island brought with them carnival celebrations from their perspective countries. The African peoples brought with them their own festivals and celebrations. These contributed to the vibrant colors, and some of the traditions of making frightening masks, musical instruments, dance and songs. They also gave a little humor to the mix by making fun of themselves and life. It was a way to escape the hardships of life. Making their existence a little easier to bear by making jest of themselves and their circumstances.

Video – Slaves Abused By Spanish Captors

The first part of this video is a Dominican Carnival Troupe depicting the slaves and their captors. They act out the slaves being abused by their Spanish captors and the Monk is trying to stop this cruel atrocity. The song is Carnaval (Baila en la Calle) by Luis Diaz. If you cannot see the video it is located here https://youtu.be/Wasw61PULSk on YouTube.

Along with the arrival of Columbus and his entourage came European religion. Since carnival was mostly “pagan” the Spaniards added their religious inflections to the celebration. They wanted to permit their slaves to let loose and have a little diversion to get the “wild” out of their systems. Even though they said this was for the slaves and the natives of the island, the slave owners enjoyed the unrestrained festivities also. To pacify their spiritual side, they had to add some religion into the mix.

Carnival has been celebrated in Santo Domingo since the mid-1500’s and before. There is proof of carnival found in la Ruinas de la Vega Vieja/ Ruins of the Old Fertile Valley (near the present-day town of La Vega) showing that celebrations were going on here even before they were celebrated in Santo Domingo. The people in the old town of La Vega disguised themselves as Moors and Christians (the Moors, the name the Spanish gave the Islamic persons, and the Christians were always at odds).

Carnival crowds in Santo Domingo on the Malecon.
Carnival crowds in Santo Domingo on the Malecon.

It is thought that República Dominicana was the first place in the Americas to observe the pre-Lenten carnival custom. The celebrations became an escape from the pressures and rigidity of religious tradition. By the late 1700’s carnival had become a major celebration. Then when Dominican Republic won their independence February 27,1844 the celebration evolved to encompass the Independence Day commemorations as well. Finally, becoming what it is today. Beginning the traditional carnival with the pre-lenten celebrations, the climax concluding with the Independence Day observances. Combining both celebrations and making the entire month of February a celebration and time for enjoyment.

Carnival Celebrations Worldwide

Did you know?
Carnevale in Greek is pronounced Aprokies and it means “farewell to meat”. The original Latin word “carne vale,” means farewell to meat.

Many countries celebrate some type of Carnival. There are a multitude of different names as there are varieties of traditions that follow this custom. It is interesting to find that of the many different carnival traditions throughout the world how many of them are surprisingly similar.

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)- New Orleans, USA
Jamaica Carnival – Jamaica
Carnival of Binche – Belgium
Trinidad Carnival – Port of Spain, Trinidad
Carnival St. Thomas – US Virgin Islands
Nice Carnaval – French Riviera, France
Carnival of Venice – Italy
Carnival – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Carnival (Fastnacht) in Cologne – Cologne, Germany
Maslenitsa – Russian Carnival
Zapusty – Poland

Children Dancing

A brightly dressed Carnival Troupe comprised of mostly younger children dancing. All ages enjoy Carnaval and its festivities. This was before the Carnival parade even started. They were just practicing in the Parque San Jose in Ciudad Colonial. If you cannot see this video it is available on YouTube here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l-g4H63D5M.

Carnival Dominican style

Carnival in Dominican Rep}ublic is a colorful and vibrant part of the culture here on the island of Hispaniola in the country of Dominican Republic.

Young and old alike are part of the carnival groups in Dominican Republic.
Young and old alike are part of the carnival groups in Dominican Republic.

Carnival is a countrywide festival, with each town having its own version of the custom. Every town adds a touch of their own flair to the merrymaking with diverse masks, costumes, characters, music and methods of celebrating. Even though there are many differences the thing all the celebrations have in common is they are all charged with unbridled energy. Carnival is also very family orientated, having both young and old join in the festivities. Participating groups can consist of family units, clubs, friends, families and businesses, all can participate in the carnival parade of masked and painted creatures.

The Diablos Cojuelos with their frightening and evil looking masks.
The Diablos Cojuelos with their frightening and evil looking masks.

Of the many costumes and creatures represented the most celebrated seem to be the devils known as Diablos Cojuelos. Others are painted bodies, or bodies decorated with paper. And yet others may have animal masks or elaborate costumes. Many disguises and get-ups symbolize the opposite, a world upside down. This is where the humor enters the scene. Men may dress as women. All is the opposite of what one would expect. This can be very funny to observe. Some costumes represent the Indians or mock the dress of the conquerors and oppressors of the island, the Europeans. These costumes are a mix or all the cultures, beliefs, peoples and ideas, making for a unique viewing experience. The costumes are only limited by the imagination of the creator.

A happy little girl being held by a smiling Carnival Diablo.
A happy little girl being held by a smiling Carnival Diablo.

It is enjoyable watching the children delighting in the carnival activities. Some are afraid and hide behind their parents. The parents love getting the pictures of their little ones taken with the masked creatures. Many children like to get dressed up in masks or paint their faces. They will mask themselves in whatever they have available. It is fun to see just how creative the children can be when need dictates. The future generation of carnival parades are being spawned.

The Economy of Carnaval

Men dress up as women all in fun.
Men dress up as women all in fun.

The Carnival is very good for the economy to bring in tourists by the droves. All are coming to observe this spectacle. It helps the entrepreneurs with their home businesses creating masks and souvenirs that are all carnival orientated. The mask-makers, the trinket manufacturers, the food vendors, the transportation industry. All have a chance to make a nice profit during the month of February thanks to the carnival. Mask makers can start creating as soon as the carnival is over, preparing and designing for the following year. Readying a town for carnival usually starts immediately after the Christmas celebrations. Getting all ready to make money for the town and its people and to have a good time.

Representing the tragedy at Rio Blanco in Jimini when many people died buried under a huge mudslide.
Representing the tragedy at Rio Blanco in Jimini when many people died buried under a huge mudslide.

Each troupe will represent different regions and towns throughout Dominican Republic. A town or barrio will have his or her own unique costumes and customs. For many, each year the costumes must be different. Some burn their costumes after the carnival, which represents change or closure, while others give their used costumes to the children. These costumes are widely diverse, some made of bright materials including satin and taffeta. Some are decorated with small round and square mirrors, bells, ribbons, whistles, tiny dolls. While other costumes are fierce, repulsive and quite hideous. Many can be very beautiful and elegant. Some of the troupes portray past historical events and tragedies. There are men dressed as ladies, bodies covered in black grease, and other bodies brightly painted.

Close-up of a mask where you can see human eyes inside
Close-up of a mask where you can see human eyes inside

Carnival can be a very competitive pageant as there are prizes given for the best of the best in many different categories. With artists and participants working together to get the right fit and the look they desire. They can work all year making their costumes so they can join to celebrate and compete in this festival. Costume design and character presentations come together for the judging of the best groups in Carnival. The capital celebrations only permit up to 150 groups participating per region. Here the winners of the local Carnival events merge for this the grandest of competitions. Original masks, costumes, floats and masked dance groups fuse to create a flood of activities in the streets. There can be more than 50,000 parade participants joining in the Malecon parade in Santo Domingo with over half a million people that bombard the capital to watch and join in the carnival celebrations. All this is presided over by the King of the Carnival who is elected every year.

Carnaval Dominican Republic 2010 on the Malecon, Santo Domingo.

The Dancing Girls, Fire Throwers, Soy Dominicano and more. The flavors of Carnival Dominican style. To watch on YouTube https://youtu.be/nnol2k9EtzU

La Vega

Crowds of people at Carnival in La Vega.
Crowds of people at Carnival in La Vega.

The most popular Carnival activities are in the town of La Vega. Normally a very quiet town with not many tourists draw. During the carnival here is where thousands of people go every Saturday and Sunday during the month of February. People gather on Calle Padre Adolfo (with the cathedral lurking in the distance), in front of the Parque de las Flores or to watch the spectacular event. The registered groups, known as comparsas, participate in the Carnival parade. These groups can be well organized. Many have participated together for many years. The groups may include from 10 to 15 people and sometimes many more. The traditional costumes are carefully sewn months in advance and are very intricate and colorful.

Santo Domingo

The final Carnival Parade down the Malecon in Santo Domingo
The final Carnival Parade down the Malecon in Santo Domingo

Traditionally in old Santo Domingo now known as Colonial Zone, the night before Carnival, people lit their homes, balconies and streets. Illuminating the entire town. The boats would be decorated. There would be oranges and egg shells filled with scented water, the hole plugged with wax. These were called ojos de cera/ wax eyes. They were thrown at the crowds. The procession was held on Calle el Conde. (The Egg History: The Romans phrase Omne vivum ex ovo, “All life comes from an egg.” The egg is a universal symbol of birth and resurrection. It has been used by many cultures. The Egyptians and Greeks used eggs in their burial rituals. Mexico fills eggs (cascarones) with confetti or small prizes and throws them. Early variations, connected with the customarily riotous pre-Lenten celebrations, were filled with either perfumed or nasty-smelling colored water and sealed with a plug of wax.)

A young man selling little Diablo necklaces at carnaval.
A young man selling little Diablo necklaces at carnaval.

The Carnival celebrations held in Santo Domingo is the climax of all the carnival activities bring troupes from the entire island together with a magnificent and impressive parade held on the Malecon. The major competitions are held here with a nice sum of money to be won. The capital city is invaded with beings of all varieties, type and descriptions. They are everywhere, roaming the streets. It is not easy to distinguish the parading beings from the beings watching the spectacle as many observers wear costumes also. You may see someone with toothpicks protruding from their hair. Diving from eggs being thrown. Whips cracking. People yelling as they are hit by a masked creature on the backside. There will be debris littering the streets. People will have their faces painted. Children will have on plastic Halloween masks. There are all types of food being sold. Vendors selling their wares and trinkets commemorating the carnival. The sights and sounds of Dominican Carnival.

The Vejiga

The vejigas/ inflated bladder balloons carried by many Carnival characters
The vejigas/ inflated bladder balloons carried by many Carnival characters

Amongst all the colors, activity and music in abundance, one must always be on high alert for the vejigas/ the inflated bladder weapons and the látigos/ whips. The vejigas are a balloon-type weapon dangling at the end of a strap, toted by these wicked creatures. These balls are traditionally made of either cow or pig bladders and filled with air. They are also sometimes made of rubber these days. These are used to hit the people that happen to get in the way. Always aiming to hit on the lower part of the body but with all the commotion in the street it is a free for all. Originally these balls were used as crowd control to make way for the costumed people. It is said that getting hit brings good luck. I think it is luckier if you can avoid being hit. I suggest staying away from these weapon-bearing creatures because getting hit hurts. Getting wapped in the butt is not pleasant but it is all part of the Carnival experience.

WARNING. Do not try and block the hit if you see it coming. Just turn your butt to the weapon and let it hit there. It hurts much less on the back side than it does on the hand and other areas of the body.

Celebration Locations

The police working to control the crowds watching to try and make sure all is safe during carnival.
The police working to control the crowds watching to try and make sure all is safe during carnival.

During most carnival celebrations the la Cámara de Diputados y el Patrimonio Folklórico de la Nación/ The House of Representatives and the Folkloric Patrimony of the Nation set limitations for the safety of all involved, paraders and observers alike. Prohibited are firearms, glass bottles and any knife/machete type weapon. Also, they watch closely to make sure the vejigas are within the limits that have been set forth. No sharp edges or objects attached. They cannot be inflated to be too hard. They try to make the carnival safe and fun for all.

The most popular Carnival celebrations are:
*Carnaval Vegano – Carnival in La Vega – This is thought to be the oldest carnival celebration in the Americas. Held in the center of this small town on Calle Duarte starting at the church.
*Carnaval Bonao – La “Villa de las Hortensias” held in the Parque Central
*Carnaval Santiago. This huge carnival is held on the streets Las Carreras, Beller and Francia
*Carnaval Salcedo – Held on the main street passing by the church.
*Carnaval Santo Domingo Este – one of the newer additions to the weekly carnival celebrations.
*Carnival Santo Domingo – The capital city has the grand finale carnival parade.

Mickey and Minnie made an appearance at Carnaval Dominicano.
Mickey and Minnie made an appearance at Carnaval Dominicano.

No matter where one goes to see Carnival it is a true fusion of culture and religion Dominican style. Always a grand blend of colors, music, wild activities and exciting dances. The Diablos Cojuelos come out into the streets swinging their weapons and cracking their whips. The people are enjoying it. It is an audience participation parade in grand scale. Something that all should experience sometime in their lives.

Roba La Gallina

The Roba la Gallina or Chicken Robber is a fun part of the Dominican Republic Carnaval. These large people be it children, women or men dressed as women, walking with their umbrellas and big butts are fun to watch. Their bright smiles and big back sides shaking. YouTube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnol2k9EtzU

Continue to learn about all the Dominican Republic Carnival Characters.

Recipes 2 – Sweet Beans, La Bandera & Fritters

Recipes Page 2 – Beans, Rice and Corn Fritters

Dominicans love their rice and beans. It is a joke that if a Dominican goes without rice for even a day they will perish. It is such a staple in everyday eating. The typical dish “La Bandera” is consumed daily in some form by most Dominicans. Beans are also a staple food in Dominican Republic. Beans cooked runny, with rice or sweet as a desert, all are just so good. Let’s do some cooking!

Habichuelas con Dulce/Sweet Beans | La Bandera Dominicana/The Dominican Flag(meat Guisado, Arroz Blanco, Habichuelas, Ensalada) | Chofan/Dominican Style Chinese Fried Rice | Arepitas de Maiz/Fried Corn Meal Cakes

Habichuelas con Dulce

Habichuelas con Dulce
Habichuelas con Dulce

Habichuelas con Dulce / Sweet Beans are a typical Dominican dish. Each cooker of this sweet dish has their own way to make it special by adding a touch of something different to the traditional recipe. It is a sort of pudding but not as thick. It is made with Kidney Beans, Yam, Condensed Milk, Raisins and Cinnamon. It sounds terrible but trust me, it is wonderful. This dessert has become an Easter/Semana Santa tradition, served during Lent, in the Dominican household.
(Bon Helados also serves up an ice cream version that is wonderful during the Easter season)

Cooking Habichuelas con Dulce
Cooking Habichuelas con Dulce

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked kidney beans/habichuelas rojas
2 cups water reserved from the beans
1/4 cup of raisins/ciruelas pasas
3 cups of evaporated milk/leche evaporada
1 cup of coconut milk/leche de coco
1 cup sweetened condensed milk/Leche Condensada
1/2 lb of sweet potatoes/batatas cooked and mashed
1/2 cup of sugar/azucar
2 cinnamon sticks/palitos de canela
2 tablespoons butter/mantequilla
8 to 10 cloves/Clavos dulces
1/2 teaspoon salt/sal
optional
Cassava bread toasted/casabe tostado or milk cookies/galleticas de leche

Habichuelas con Dulce with milk cookies ready for eating!
Habichuelas con Dulce with milk cookies ready for eating!

Instructions:
Puree the beans with a little cooking liquid and then strain.
Add beans, coconut milk, evaporated milk and bring to a boil
Lower heat to medium add the Condensed milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, raisins and sweet potatoes
Keep stirring so it does not stick.
Add the rest of the ingredients.
Stir until the desired consistency has been reached.
Serve warm or cold with the cassava bread or float the cookies on top.

I have been known to enjoy a few bowls before feeling satisfied. This is a treat you will ever forget. It sounds terrible but it is ever so tasty. ¡Que Sabroso!

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

La Bandera Dominicana / The Dominican Flag

La Bandera Dominicana
La Bandera Dominicana

La Bandera Dominicana/The Dominican Flag is typically prepared for lunch and is the most important meal in Dominican Republic. It is a combination of beans, rice, meat/seafood and salad type dish. It is very filling and satisfying and is quite healthy also because it is made with fresh ingredients.

The meat is cooked Guisado/Stewed this is a general recipe for making the stewed meats. You can use this recipe to make Pollo Guisado/ Stewed Chicken, Rés Guisada/Stewed Beef, or other stewed meats.

Carne Guisado Recipe: Cut bell peppers, chop some celery, add some onion cut coarse, preferably red onion, some tomatoes cut in large pieces, some mashed garlic, tomato paste to give it some liquid and thicken up the sauce, some lemon or vinegar, a few green olives if you desire, a little dash of sugar, and some oregano, salt and a little oil. Sauté the meat (usually cut in medium to small bite sized pieces) in the oil then add the veggies and spices. Add a little water and cover and let simmer until the meat is cooked and veggies are soft. Add water as needed. Mix the tomato paste in a little water and add to the mix until the desired consistency has been reached.

Arroz Blanco Recipe

White Rice / Arroz Blanco Dominican Style
White Rice / Arroz Blanco Dominican Style

The Arroz Blanco/White Rice is cooked soft. Add a little oil to the rice so you can get some Concón/ Burnt Rice on the bottom of the pan. This is a delicacy and is the sign that you have mastered the Dominican rice cooking.

This is the way Dominicans make their white rice.
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups raw rice rinsed and drained
3 TBSP cooking oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups water

Instructions:
A heavy skillet is best. Add oil salt water and rice to the pan. Mix. Cook over high heat until boiling. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water absorbed. Remove the lid and allow the rice to rest a few minutes. For concon let the rice cook on low heat on the stove for a little time more until the crust appears on the bottom of the pan. It takes a little skill and some luck to easily remove the con-con from the bottom of the pan. Serve the rice hot and the con-con on the side.

Habichuelas Guisadas Recipe
The Habichuelas Guisadas/Stewed Beans can be made with any type of bean, red, white, fava, lentils, whatever you have on hand.

Recipe:
Cook the beans until soft or buy them in a can. Add some chopped celery, some squash if you have it, a little onion, parsley, thyme, oregano, coriander or cilantro, some mashed garlic, a cube of chicken stock, a little oil, some tomato paste, and salt. Cook the veggies and spices in the oil until they are soft. Add the stock and tomato paste. Add the beans. Mash the beans a little to make them juicy. Cook until they have thickened up a little, adding water if needed. Adjust the ingredients to your taste.

Ensalada
Make a small Ensalada/Salad with lettuce and tomato, cut up an avocado and top with límon or vinegar and oil. You can finely chop cabbage with some tomato and peppers with oil and vinegar dressing. Make Dominican style potato salad called Ensalada Hervida/Boiled Salad using boiled carrots, potato, eggs, with an oil and vinegar dressing.

Now for the best part….this is my favorite step (drum roll please). Serve all this on a large plate. Put the beans on top of the rice. Let some of the meat juice get on the rice also. Place a little of the Concón on the plate. Put the salad on the side. Get a big glass of ice water and a big spoon and enjoy. When finished have a sweet or a cup of coffee. Now you have eaten the typical Dominican lunch just like a true Dominican.

Chofan

Chinese Fried Rice Dominican Style. The Chofan rice dish is very versatile. The basic recipe is rice with vegetables, egg, and some meat or seafood of your choice added to the mix. It is a great rice dish to use with your leftovers.

The general recipe is here with some different substitutions added. Be creative and make your own signature

Dominican style Chofan
Ingredients:(remember all can be adjusted to your taste)
2 eggs scrambled (eggs are usually part of the dish but you can omit them if you desire)
2 tablespoons of oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup of ham, pork, seafood, goat, chicken, tofu…etc. cooked and cubed. (Combine meats and seafood for a flavor all your own).
3 tablespoons soy sauce/ salsa china (or tamari sauce for a lower salt version)
3 tablespoons onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup sweet corn, green peas (petit pois), red beans. Add all or 1 of these ingredients. Be creative and try adding some other veggie.
2 to 3 cups of cooked rice
If your adding eggs to the mix scramble them up first in the oil. (If your veggies and meats are not all pre-cooked remove the egg and set aside to add to the mix along with the rice so it does not get to hard.) Sauté all the pre-cooked meats and veggies together until the onion and celery are soft. Add the soy sauce to the mixture. Mix well. Then add the pre-cooked rice and stir all together and fry until hot. Fluff it up with a fork. Add salt to taste. Serve alone as a main dish or as a side.

Arepitas

Arepitas de Maiz/ Fried Corn Meal Cakes (I call them Corn Bread Droppings). These tasty treats are a fast and easy snack or meal accompaniment Hispanola style.

1 cup corn meal or corn flour
2 teaspoons of milk
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 egg

Mix these ingredients together. Add more liquid if the mix is not moist enough. Heat about 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet.
Drop about a tablespoon full into the oil. Fry until golden on both sides. Drain on some paper. Serve them up when they are fresh and hot. For variety try adding some hot peppers, whole corn or a little cheese into the mix. Yummmm….

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.