by Nick Argires
A trip down to the Dominican Republic had me in the capital city of Santo Domingo – epicenter of all things culture and history in the DR. Wherever there is history, there is tradition, which always begs the question: What dishes have inserted themselves into those traditions.
Sancocho is considered one of the Dominican Republic’s national dishes, but ironically, you may be hard pressed to find it at restaurants in the country. In fact, many traditional restaurants themselves were hard to find — there are only a few in the Colonial City. Initially that seemed very strange, but after speaking with a few locals, the answer seemed understandably obvious. Sancocho is just too much a labor of love to not surround yourself with family and make it a Sunday tradition. You’ll find most natives gathered in the kitchen on Sunday, preparing the stew in an all-day affair of vegetable chopping and slow cooking after church in the morning.
You may not have family in the Dominican Republic, but in Santo Domingo, Chef Martin Omar González and his wife will make you feel at home. Chef González and his wife teach interactive culinary classes on how to prepare dishes, like sancocho. In Casa Puerto Santo, a home built in 1578 that has since been renovated, Chef González prepares the sancocho using native vegetables like yuca, tapioca, squash, potatoes, and a variety of citrus fruits and herbs.
The yuca and tapioca are what make sancocho a truly unique dish — the naturally starchy root vegetables thicken the stew giving it a smooth, velvety texture. The hearty vegetables are balanced with lots of fresh citrus, including juice from oranges and limes. Chef González serves the sancocho with white rice, fresh avocado, and a chili powder for a dash of spice. The dish is served in the open-air courtyard of the historic house — an oasis in the city that has the feel of home.
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