Chapea is a type of stew popular in certain pastoral regions of the Dominican Republic. Its primary ingredient is red or white beans, paired with sausage, squash, rice, plantains, and a combination of herbs and spices. As with many traditional recipes, preparation of chapea can vary greatly from recipe to recipe and family to family. It is one of many bean-and-rice based dishes in the country and reflects the region’s propensity for thick, hearty stews that, when accompanied by bread, serve as a family dinner.
Traditional Dominican chapea calls for longaniza, a type of sausage native to the region. In lieu of this, regular pork sausage, ham or pork chops can be used. Yellow squash grown in the Dominican Republic is used in local versions of chapea, but any sort of summer squash or even pumpkin can be used in its place. The squash is broken up and reduced during the cooking process and is primarily used to thicken the stew.
A wide variety of herbs, spices, and flavoring vegetables can be used in the preparation of chapea. Cilantro, garlic, onions, and green peppers are common additions. One crucial ingredient is sour orange juice, usually added in quantities of a few tablespoons to give the dish a slightly citric flavor. If orange juice is not available, lime juice can be substituted. The longaniza or other meat is typically pan-fried prior to being added to the soup in order to give it a smokier, crispier flavor and texture.
Bread or rolls are often served alongside chapea to soak up the stew’s juices. The total cooking time for the dish is about one hour, depending upon how long it takes to puree the squash and for the rice in the stew to become tender. The cooking time can be shortened by using canned, instead of fresh, dry, beans and pureeing the squash in a food processor before adding it to the stew liquid.
Chapea is one of many traditional meals from the Dominican Republic that reflect the country’s Spanish-influenced tendencies to include beans and rice as main components of a meal. Stews of various kinds are also popular dishes. Perhaps even more widely prepared than chapea is Dominican sancocho, a stew that is somewhat similar to chapea but adds yams, potatoes, and a variety of spices to the mix. Green plantains are also a food staple in the Dominican Republic and are often fried and served as a side dish.