After a heavy start to the year, I want to lighten things up a bit for y’all!
I’ve been in the DR for about five weeks now and I am not complaining. The trip was supposed to last only two and a half weeks, but due to the surge in Omicron cases in NYC, we extended our trip. I realized that returning to the city would not only be potentially unsafe for us, but also for our community, especially if we were to unknowingly bring back a new virus strain.
Since this was our last week here, I wanted to have some fun and share some of my favorite foods, lovingly cooked by our long-time family friend and live-in chef, Bienvenida Matias, who we call Biemba for short. She is the sunshine that illuminates our house! She wakes up with the biggest smile every day and honestly, seeing her gives me and my family renewed energy. I guess I should mention that I also never have to think about cooking and that, to me, is freedom in a luxury!
The first thing Biemba makes for us all in the morning is a round of licuados, or smoothies. She will make them with mango, banana, papaya or whatever is ripe. Fruit is abundant! I add some uncooked oatmeal, carob chips, flaxseed meal and toasted walnuts on top, all great for curbing cholesterol.
A few times during my visit I will go all out for breakfast and ask for huevitos al estilo Dominicano with a side of toast 🍳. The eggs are sunny side up and runny the way I like them, but the key is the veggies. Biemba sautes Caribbean green pepper, red onion, tomato and a squeeze of lemon or lime and adds it all on top of the eggs. Trust me, I’ve tried doing this at home and it just never tastes the same 😭. Plus I try not to eat eggs except for special occasions so I’m ok with this just being a Punta Cana thing!
Arepas de Yuca
What the cassava root is to the DR is what maiz is to Mexico. Biemba grates the root down and then adds egg, sugar, and anise to form little arepitas. They are like Dominican lightly fried dumplings and taste absolutely sublime!
Moro de Guandules con Coco
I try, often unsuccessfully, to stay away from white rice, but in the DR I love Biemba’s rice so much I accept the bloat rice gives me! Biemba cooks the rice with Caribbean pigeon peas made in coconut sauce. They call the peas guandules. I swear I could eat this at every👏🏽damn👏🏽meal👏🏽.
IYKYK–This is the food that most Latin families fight over at every comida. Dominicans have perfected the art of fluffy white rice cooked on top, but crispy lightly burnt rice lining the bottom of the pan. This crunchy rice is served as a delicacy after the regular rice has been scooped out. Add warm red habichuelas on top and you are good to go 🤤.
Some days I find Biemba standing over the stove and burning an eggplant on the fire. She peels the burnt skin off and sautes the insides with her magic seasoning and voila. Delicious eggplant, berenjena, a la style Biemba.
On a couple of wondrous occasions during our time here, Biemba will whip up some fried chicken. I'm a sucker for fried chicken, but try to eat it only occasionally. This is one of my favorite delicacies while I’m in DR, since you'll never see me cooking it back in NYC and I avoid ordering it (except for the casual dinner at Melba’s). Homemade fried chicken made with love is absolute heaven.
Cevereza Vestida de Novia
While being in Punta Cana is healing for my spiritual side, I tend to indulge here more often. I have been doing something during this trip I would never do back in NYC: I drink a beer con la comida. But it isn't just any beer. It has to be served “Vestida de Novia.” Here in the DR they’ve perfected the science of almost frozen beer so that when they serve it, it’s covered in a thin veil of ice. Hence your beer is dressed in all white like a novia, a bride. That's probably another reason why I don’t drink beer in the US... it’s never served cold enough TBH 😅.
Tequila and Cards
Before dinner, we have a nightly cholesterol fighting sipped shot of tequila accompanied by anchovy stuffed olives, prosciutto, and a serious round of cards. We created a remix of a Mexican game called "Continental" that we like to call “Contipula”. It's basically a version of rummy. Biemba wins a lot and I may get more competitive than usual, jajaja.
Crema de Auyama
We often eat something light at the end of the day. I look forward to a small bowl of crookneck pumpkin soup, crema de auyama. On top we add crispy casave, which Biemba toasts with salted garlic olive oil. I loved the name of this dish because it invokes the Taino blood that runs through this island. Crema de auyama con casave.
Jamoca Almond Fudge
As I said earlier, when I'm down here, I let myself indulge. So yes, I have to eat my comfort dessert. When I was 6 years old, I used to go to Baskin-Robbins after my ballet class and pay a quarter for a scoop. I always asked for jamoca almond fudge. They sell it here in the supermarket, so I treat myself to a small scoop at least once, maybe twice a day. Mostly twice 😂
I miss Biemba already and I am so thankful I married a man from the DR. I hope you all find some inspiration to go and try some Dominican meals in your community or to make your own! Let me know how it goes in the comments!
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