The Flavor of Dominican Christmas: Pasteles en Hoja
San Pedro de Macorís is famous for Pasteles en Hoja and home to NPH Dominican Republic. Make this popular Dominican dish at home and savor the local flavor of the holidays.
December 11, 2019 - Dominican Republic
Christmastime around the world is often a period where people overindulge, enjoy banquets and merriment, and exchange gifts with family members; however, for many Dominican families celebrating Christmas is not so simple. Many do not have enough money to put food on the table, let alone host a Christmas feast.
One of the main causes for poverty in the Dominican Republic is economic inequality with those in rural areas suffering most. According to the Dominican Ministry of the Economy, Planning, and Development, 30.5% of the population lives below the poverty line, accounting for approximately three million of the 10.7 million total population. Furthermore, approximately 680,000 people suffer in extreme poverty. With minimum wage at US$211 dollars per month, this often isn’t enough to cover basic household expense.
Despite this, Dominicans try to enjoy the season as best they can by keeping their deep-rooted traditions, one of which is families coming together for Christmas dinner on December 24 to celebrate Noche Buena or Christmas Eve.
The typical Christmas dinner on this evening is Pasteles en Hoja or Leaf Cakes. These are seen all year round, especially in San Pedro de Macorís (the location of NPH Dominican Republic) which is recognized nationally as the birthplace of Pasteles en Hoja. One restaurant in particular has been making this delicious dish for more than 50 years. Tourists come from all over to try them.
Pasteles en Hoja isn’t the only dish on the table at Christmas. There is also roast chicken, roast pork, vegetables, and salads, among others.
Pasteles en Hoja is similar to tamales. Instead of a corn dough or masa like in a tamale, a base made of green or ripe plátanos (bananas) and different tuber vegetables used to make the cakes. They can be filled with beef (the most common stuffing), chicken, or whatever you like.
Though many of the ingredients are commonly found in the Dominican Republic, but may be difficult to find in other countries. Follow this recipe to make this Dominican delight at home.
Recipe for Pasteles en Hoja
For the meat filling
1/2 pound (0.23 kilogram) ground beef
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 green Cuba pepper, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons raisins
Total cost RD$10.00
For the masa
1/2 pound (0.23 kilogram) yautia root
1 green plátano
2 ripe plátanos
1 pound (0.46 kilogram) auyama squash
1/2 pound (0.23 kilogram) ñame yam
1 cube chicken broth
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon garlic paste
pinch of bija or annatto
Total cost RD$10.00
For the leaf wraps
3 plátano leaves
Total cost RD$3.00
1/2 cup ketchup
hot sauce, if desired
Total cost RD$4.50
To make the meat filling
Put the meat in a bowl. Add pepper, onion, green Cuba pepper, oregano, and salt. In a pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add meat and cook until brown. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, adding a tablespoon of water each time it dries out. Add tomato paste. Mix well and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add raisins. Let the liquid evaporate. Remove from heat and set aside.
To make the masa
Peel and grate the yautia, plátanos, auyama, and ñame with the fine side of your guayo (grater) or use the high setting on your food processor. In a bowl mix the yautia, ñame, auyama, plátano, cube of chicken broth, orange juice, garlic, bija, oil, salt, and milk. Set masa aside.
To make the leaf wraps
Cut the plátano leaves into squares measuring 5 x 5 inches (13 x 13 centimeters) approximately. Wash and set aside. Put 3 tablespoons of masa in the middle of a leaf square. Put 1 tablespoon of filling on top of the masa. Put another 3 tablespoons of masa on top of the dollop of meat filling. Fold and close the leaf square like an envelope. Tie the folded square tightly with kitchen twine. Once all leaf squares (or cakes) are filled and folded, fill a deep pot with two liter of water. Bring water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Gently put all the cakes in the boiling pot. Boil over medium heat for 30 minutes. Continue to add water, as needed, to make sure the cakes do not dry out. Unwrap cakes and serve. Add ketchup and hot sauce to taste.
This recipe can be made for about RD$27.50 for a family of four people. Enjoy!
RD$ is the Dominican peso, the local currency.