Thankfully as an expat you won’t be forced to eat the bland fare that most tourists get fed at the giant resort hotels that make up so many foreigners’ experiences of the Dominican Republic.
Dominican cuisine, though not for those watching their waistline, is seriously tasty and the list of dishes seemingly endless. As with all aspects of Dominican culture, food here takes its cue from a range of historical influences – Spanish and West African being the main two. Don’t expect Michelin star cuisine: the best food is nearly always the comida criolla found in cheap and cheerful family-run establishments with no airs or graces.
Hispaniola’s tropical climate means you’ll never want for fresh produce and fruit that might be expensive in many countries – pineapples and avocadoes spring to mind – are a dime a dozen here. The world renowned mangoes are especially good.
Rice and plantain are the real staples, and you’ll find they make their way into most meals. Hispaniola being an island, seafood also makes up a large part of the diet. As signature dishes go, la bandera (literally translated as ‘the flag”) tends to get eaten almost every day by Dominicans. It’s cheap and simple, but always good. Rice, red beans and stewed meat make up the dish, so called due to its three distinct colours presented in a row.
Mofongo is a classic island dish made of mashed yucca or plantain with garlic and chicharrón (pork rinds) while alcapurrias are fritters whose dough is made from mashed vegetable roots. This is then filled with seasoned meat and fried. You’re also sure to be given tostones at some stage – deep fried, smashed slices of plantain which are not to be missed. Bear in mind that if you’re vegetarian, you might have to make do with rice and beans – at least outside the capital.
As for drinks, trying morir soñando (literally ‘die dreaming’) is a must. It’s made from orange juice, milk and chopped ice and is laced with liberal spoonfuls of cane sugar. There are all kinds of other milkshakes, or batidos available and they’re always made fresh to order with local fruit.
As for alcohol, Dominican rum is among the best the Caribbean has to offer, with Bermúdez and Brugal both good and inexpensive brands. Go for the aged varieties. The best local beer is Presidente which you’ll always find served ice cold.