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Sancocho, the Dominican tradition on a dish


According to experts, the sancocho or stew is a dish that has its origin in the Canary Islands, and was brought into the Dominican Republic by the first immigration from this Spanish archipelago.

It was adapted using endemic products such as cassava, yam, taro and bananas. Its popularity made it also to extend to Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

The social character of the sancocho is well recognized. The book "Dominican cuisine: History of the Creole Taste" rescues the story of an American man, Denis Harris, who visited Santo Domingo in 1860 and who, as part of his experience in the country, tasted this wonderful dish. The chronicle relates that he shared with a family who lived on the banks of the river La Isabela and offered a sancocho of goat with bananas.

Therefore, the sancocho is part of the history of the Dominican Republic. When the annexation with Spain took place in 1861, General Adriano López Morillo, who participated in the contest, gave details about the food products and eating habits of the Dominican, mentioning the sancocho as a dish they cooked boiling different kind of viand together with pork, goat or cow, even chicken.

The dish that the Dominicans are proudest of is the sancocho. On rainy days, it becomes the main dish so that warms people up, and on special occasions, it is cooked to share with friends and family. In spite of being a very complete sancocho, since it contains protein from a variety of meats, carbohydrates and vegetables, its elaboration is quite simple. On the one hand, the meat is cooked and on the other hand, the different provisions, except the pumpkin, which is added at the end to prevent it from falling apart in the broth of the stew.

In the Dominican cuisine books, there is no coincidence in all types of meats that are used for making a typical sancocho, but there are five ingredients that must be included such as beef, chicken, pork, goat and spicy pork sausage. The smoked ribs, chicken and cured meat, that is, the salted beef, are usually an accompaniment to the first group we have previously mentioned. There are also variations such as the white stew, which is composed of birds, usually chicken. Among the tastiest sancocho can be found bean and grain stew, mainly consisting of red beans and green pigeon peas. The preparation is very similar but it is essentially made of grain stewed or at least previously boiled.

As part of urban and, in many cases, rural legends, it is mentioned that the sancocho had tortoiseshell meat, a type of turtle, and even manatee meat, a marine mammal, whose consumption were prohibited many years ago due to the bio-conservation of these species. Other forms of elaboration have to do with the unique condiments used for it, such as grated green banana buns, wheat flour buns, coontie buns (tuber of the southern region, mainly found in San Cristóbal and Palenque, that is elaborated in a special way to remove toxicity) and other tubers that vary according to the region.

The sancocho is culturally very important for the Dominican people, reason why renowned artists have dedicated their musical compositions to it. Different versions in the voices of Alberto Beltrán, Vinicio Franco, Joseíto Mateo or Johnny Ventura were inspired by a popular theme known as "El sancocho prieto.”

TEXT: Alana Fernández IMAGES: Archivo