I absolutely love Hispanic-based dishes, but there's nothing like food you are connected to through culture. Dominican food has always been the center of my life, and I've found that it is even more amazing when you can enjoy it at the motherland itself. You may be thinking: Can't I get the same experience at a Dominican restaurant? And while, yes, you can chow down on some amazing food at Dominican restaurants, nothing beats food from the source. With Spring Break approaching, you may find yourself in the land of my people, and you may need some food recommendations. So here are 20 authentic Dominican dishes to try on your next vacation:

1. La Bandera

La Bandera is a traditional Dominican lunch. If you didn't know, lunch is usually the most important meal in Latin cultures, and DR is no exception. This dish's name translates to "the flag" because it's elements are meant to depict the colors of the Dominican Flag (red, white, and blue). Traditionally, the main ingredients are white rice, red kidney beans (although they can be substituted by black beans or pigeon peas), and either chicken or beef. This dish is paired with some type of salad and if you're lucky, you'll get tostones too.

According to my mother, "La Bandera siempre se come con aguacate," meaning, "La Bandera is always eaten with avocado." I hadn't realized, but in my home, we eat La Bandera quite often. It's the epitome of Dominican food.

2. Los Tres Golpes

Los Tres Golpes translates to "the three hits" and it is the Dominican breakfast of champions. Consisting of mangu (plantain puree) topped with sauteed red onions, fried eggs, salami, and cheese, this is quite the filling start to the day. I vividly remember eating this a few times on my last trip to the island, and I long for the day I can eat my favorite breakfast dish once again.

#SpoonTip: Sliced avocado elevates this dish to an entirely new level of YUM.

3. Sancocho

You can't go to the Dominican Republic without trying sancocho at least once. Sancocho is a traditional stew usually made for special occasions. For example, my family rings in the new year with sancocho. It is a Dominican delicacy, with varying recipes, but commonly made with corn, yucca, cilantro, auyama (West Indian pumpkin), and various other yummy veggies. Traditionally, beef is the main meat, but there are recipes that use 3-7 different kinds of meat including pork and chicken.  I'll admit to being picky about sancocho growing up, but now I absolutely love it. 

4. Asopao

Asopao is an interesting dish. It's like a thick stew made with rice and chicken (sometimes shrimp), the kind of dish you eat on a rainy day. Like sancocho, I didn't like this dish as a child, but when I was visiting an aunt in Santo Domingo, she made a big pot of asopao. It's definitely a dish best tasted in the Dominican Republic.

#SpoonTip: This is another dish that avocado elevates.

5. Pescado Frito

Pescado Frito, aka Fried Fish "a la Dominicana," is a common beach town dish. If you're on vacation near the capital, you may find yourself near Boca Chica, a beautiful, lively beach. Here, you can experience fried fish galore served with tostones and a hint of lemon.

6. Yaniqueque

Another treat you can find in Boca Chica (and other places as well), yaniqueque translates to Johnny Cakes. Made from cornmeal, yaniqueques are flaky, deep-fried snack. As a child, I think I would eat them just about every day when I would visit DR. In the 14 years I waited to return to the island, yaniqueques were all I dreamed of.

7. Chimmichurri

If you visit the Dominican Republic, you can't go without eating a chimmichurri, not to be confused with the famous Argentinian sauce. Commonly referred to as simply a "chimi," this Dominican burger is the star of street food on the island. Topped with onions, tomatoes, and shredded cabbage with a sauce of mayonnaise and ketchup, chimis will change your life. 

8.  Yucca Encebollada

Dominicans love yucca as much as they love plátanos (plantains). Yucca encebollada is essentially boiled yucca with red onions. Yucca is a starchy food and can either be bitter or sweet. I like to soften my yucca with a little butter, but my father calls it sacrilege.

9. Bacalao

Bacalao is codfish, which is commonly used throughout the Carribbean. Dominican recipes call for salted, dried codfish, onion, peppers, and garlic. It is also commonly made with potatoes. I've always had a love/hate relationship with bacalao, but whenever I've had it when visiting the Dominican Republic, I would love it, especially when made by my grandmother.  

10. Mondongo

I won't lie, mondongo is not for everyone. It's a tripe stew made from either cow or pig intestines. Sounds icky, I know, but it is a traditional Dominican food. I am not a huge fan myself, but I won't say no to anything served to me while visiting the homeland. When in Rome, right?

11. Chicharrón

Chicharrón is pork crackling, and it's huge in the Dominican Republic. It's a guilty pleasure side dish, since it's a fatty food, but it's so satisfying. Try some with tostones, you won't regret it.

12. Casabe

Casabe is cassava bread. I don't recall having it as a child, but I recently started snacking on it. Rich in fiber, with zero cholesterol, sodium, fat, and very little carbs, casabe is a healthy and filling snack. Most people don't eat it on its own, as it can be an acquired taste, but it does pair well with a cup of coffee or habichuelas con dulce (sweet cream of beans)

13. Pica Pollo

Pica pollo is DR's very own deep-fried chicken. You can't go wrong with fried chicken. Like many foods on the list, pica pollo pairs well with tostones and a nice cold beer. Presidente anyone?

14. Pastelitos

You may know them as empanadas, but in the Dominican Republic, we call them pastelitos. Common at parties and celebrations, pastelitos are easy to make, easy to eat, and yummy enough to come back for seconds.  

15. Jugo de Chinola

This isn't a food, but it's a must try when in DR. Jugo de chinola (Passionfruit juice) is a sweet and satisfying drink. It's also a healthy beverage, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. I strongly recommend everyone try this delicious drink.

16. Morir Soñando

Morir Soñando literally translates to "die dreaming," for good reason. It's orange juice and evaporated milk, which may sound unusual but I promise you will not be let down. It's best made with freshly squeezed orange juice. 

#SpoonTip: add a little rum to this drink and now you have a Spiked Morir Sonando.

17. Habichuelas con Dulce

Habichuelas con dulce (sweet cream of beans) does sound strange, but Dominicans find them to be a delicacy. Made from kidney beans (which can be substituted for pinto beans) and evaporated milk, habichuelas con dulce are a sweet and filling treat.

18. Limoncillos

Limoncillos are Spanish limes, and some of the most delicious little fruits you will ever have. Some of my most vibrant memories of the Dominican Republic revolve around limoncillos. They're one of my favorite fruits. In fact, the last time I was in Santo Domingo, my cousins and I practically ate a whole bag ourselves. Zero regrets.

19. Concón

Concón is the crust of rice formed at the bottom of the pot, and is much loved by Dominicans. The perfect concón is crunchy, thin, and most importantly is NOT burnt. It may be hard to understand concón if you're not Dominican, but you should at least give it a chance.

20. Plátanos

I saved the best for last. Plátanos (plantains) are a staple in Dominican culture. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, even dessert, can have a dish revolving around this amazing fruit. I adore plátanos and take advantage of any opportunity to enjoy them. They're gluten-free, which I consider a bonus on the health scale. There are many plátano dishes in the Dominican Republic, you're bound to try a couple. Check out 10 different plátano dishes you can try.

These are just some of the numerous foods you can try on the beautiful island of my ancestors. The Dominican Republic is rich in culture, and food just happens to be a huge part of that culture. I hope you search for these foods on your next trip, or at least feel inspired to try something new the next time you pass by a Dominican restaurant.