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Pasteles en Hoja Dominican Republic Food

Pasteles en hoja. Worst food ever. Those were two lines that I wrote in my notebook after consuming a meal in the Dominican Republic that I felt needed some further investigation. It is a very rare occurrence in my travels when I come upon a piece of food that I cannot finish on the attributes [...]

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Pasteles en hoja. Worst food ever.

Those were two lines that I wrote in my notebook after consuming a meal in the Dominican Republic that I felt needed some further investigation.

It is a very rare occurrence in my travels when I come upon a piece of food that I cannot finish on the attributes of taste. Only once every two years, perhaps, will I find a food that can defeat me.

Pasteles en hoja cleanly won this prize in the Dominican Republic. I generally show suspicion to any food that comes wrapped in palm leaves, as I am generally not going to see what I am actually going to eat after I purchase it. But I gave in at a supermarket cafeteria in Puerto Plata. I bought something called pasteles en hoja as the main course of a meal for my wife and I.

I expected pasteles en hoja to be some sort of rice dish, but when I unwrapped the tamale I found something that resembled a wet turd. I tried it, it tasted like a wet turd. My wife was pissed that I would bring such crappy food to our dinner table. Without guilt, we both chucked our scantly nibbled portions of pasteles in hoja into the trash — something that very rarely happens to food that lands on our dinner table.

This stuck in my craw — Why did I not like the taste of this food when I have eaten boiled testicles, roadkill, trash, Tibetan blood jello, baked grasshoppers, insects, dog, cat, guts without hesitation.

Pasteles en Hoja - Dominican Republic Food

The last time a dish of food defeated me was in Guatemala in 2008: I tried to eat pig skin soup and failed.

Pasteles de hojas called in the Dominican Republic. Dominican pasteles are prepared with a masa of plantains and two tubers or a masa of three tubers. The masa is filled with ground meat sauteed with annatto powder, garlic, red onions, bell peppers, and tomato paste. Many Dominicans also add grapefruit or sour orange and basil. The masa is then placed in the middle of a banana leaf, folded, tied, and then boiled. Puerto Rican pasteles are also very popular on the island.


Food in the Dominican Republic

Editors note: I know this entry is going to provoke some bonehead to leave a comment that amounts to, “If you don’t like Dominican cooking then you should leave the country you ignorant baffoon!” I get these comments on each rare occassion that I try to work out the parameters on a food dish that I did not find tasty, but a difference of opinion is not acceptable to most people on the planet. If I do not like one dish of food in a country, I receive insults. For the sake of presenting an honest view of travel, I say when I like something as when I don’t.

I don’t like pasteles in hoja, worst food in the Dominican Republic.


Filed under: Dominican Republic, Food

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3689 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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28 comments… add one

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  • jollie December 17, 2010, 9:54 am

    I am not going to leave a nasty comment, but it is possible that you had a bad one. After all, buing from a supermarket cafeteria is not always a good idea. Instead of writting off this dish, you should try again from somewhere else.

    I love pasteles en hoja, but I do admit that everything depends on who makes them and what ingrediants they used, after all there are so many variations to the paste and the filling. So try again from somwhere else when you can, maybe this time you will enjoy it.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 17, 2010, 10:17 am

      Thanks for the style of this comment. So often when I write about something in travel that I don’t really enjoy people jump to insulting me — it is as though if I don’t like something it lessens the experience for them or something.

      So, thank you, will be sure to try Pasteles in Hoja once again — though I am not sure if my wife will be up to that.

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  • Debbie December 17, 2010, 7:40 pm

    I agree with Jollie. I am making pasteles en Hoja for the holidays and it depends who makes it. My mother does not trust unless is a family member.
    We make them with plantains and we also make them with Yucca and my husband is american and loves it.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 17, 2010, 8:08 pm

      Perhaps I should try some home made pasteles en hoja.

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  • Claudette December 24, 2010, 4:49 pm

    Then you re a lucky one. They have many McDonalds, Burger Kings, Taco Bells and everything else that gastronomically challenged people such as you eat, so I don’t think you had any kind of trouble keeping yourself nourished while there. LOL.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 25, 2010, 12:28 pm

      It is funny that I can write well about a country a hundred times, but as soon as I don’t like one piece of food people like this try to insult me.

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      • Claudette November 2, 2011, 5:55 pm

        That is not an insult. There are a lot of Mickey Dees in the DR. And other such places probably. You most probably found a lot of likable food to eat.

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        • Wade Shepard November 2, 2011, 6:32 pm

          Why would I eat at McDonalds when there are so many great local places to eat in the Dominican Republic?

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          • Claudette November 2, 2011, 10:56 pm

            Ahhhh I was being ironic! You failed to catch it… hahaha. Where are you now?

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            • Wade Shepard November 2, 2011, 11:26 pm

              No, I caught it and made an apparently futile attempt to match it with equal sarcasm.

              I cannot understand why you think that because I don’t like pasteles en hoja I only eat fast food. What I can’t understand even more is why you care?

              We are in Mexico now.

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              • Claudette November 3, 2011, 12:11 am

                But I don’t! The fast food bit was a quick and expected joke. BTW I made pasteles today! For the first time. Came out beautifully! I needed to get out of that chinese cuisine rut i was in!

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  • Matt November 28, 2011, 11:17 pm

    I’m not even saying this because I’m Puerto Rican, since Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are always trying to be better than one another, but pasteles is actually a dish of Puerto Rican origin. I have never had a pastel that tasted good coming from any Dominican. I love Dominican food, don’t get me wrong, but in order for you to experience the best pasteles, you need to have it made by a Puerto Rican. We make it with green banana, squash, taro and ONE PLANTAIN! That’s the difference; Dominicans make it with plantain. Try it from a Puerto Rican and you’ll taste the difference. As for the wet turd look, they all look like that. And don’t feel bad that the looks of it made you not want to eat it. You’re not the only person who doesn’t eat them just because the way they look.

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    • Wade Shepard November 29, 2011, 11:23 am

      That sounds hopeful. Will be sure I try some pasteles when in Puerto Rico. Haha, I can’t say that the wet turd appearance necessarily was enough to keep me from trying pasteles in the Dominican Republic, I eat all kinds of sometimes gross looking food — dog, crickets, grasshoppers, ants, innards, camel — as I travel. But I think it was the goopy insides of the Dominican pasteles that put me off, perhaps you’re correct about this being attributed to the excessive plantain they use. Thanks for the tip.

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      • Matt November 30, 2011, 1:52 am

        You’re welcome! I Love your travelogue by the way. It’s pretty awesome!

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        • Wade Shepard November 30, 2011, 12:42 pm

          Thanks Matt, much appreciated! Especially since you came in on a page that made so many other people angry with me haha. Again, much appreciated.

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  • lissette December 30, 2011, 12:43 pm

    How ignorant can a person be? I agree the dish looks horrible. I am a 100% sure that those pasteles were made by someone that did not know how to make pasteles. That happens all over the world. unfortunately some people have the ability of cooking others are not so talented.

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    • Wade Shepard December 30, 2011, 1:48 pm

      The pasteles in the photo are from a restaurant. It is my impression that they don’t look much different anywhere else in the country. It is not my impression that not enjoying a particular food is grounds for accusing someone of ignorance. In fact, what I show here is the opposite of ignorance: I went to the Dominican Republic, tried a particular food, and then formulated an opinion about it. Also, this was not the first time I’ve eaten pasteles.

      Though I believe that insulting someone that you don’t even know, that you’ve never met, based solely on just one of their opinions is what could be called ignorance by definition.

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  • rosaura sanz February 20, 2012, 11:01 am

    hi ! i just wanted to say that everyone is allowed to have likes or dislikes concerning food. much like when we are children we hate our veggies, and as we grow it changes sometimes and sometimes it sticks. everyone is different. so anyone disapproving of Ur not liking pastelles is an ignoramus, in my opinion. that being said, i am of dominican decent and am pointing out that in lain america everyone has a different version of a pastelle en hoja. mexican culture makes tamales, Colombians use rice in the ” masa .” and its extreemly ignorant for someone to claim that their culture made up a wonderful dish in my opinion( a horrible dish in yours : ] ) such as a pastelle en hojas being that there are so many variations in latin america.
    Also i agree with a previous statement made concerning it depends who makes it. But again everyone is entitled to their own likes and dislikes, so everyone needs to cool it. I for one would never eat a cricket!!! :X HAPPY EATS!!!! 🙂

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    • Wade Shepard February 21, 2012, 9:56 pm

      Right on Rosaura! Thanks. I will be sure to try Pasteles again the next time I go through the Dominican Republic.

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  • lili November 3, 2012, 12:29 am

    you went to the worst place to eat in the dominican republic if you go next time never in your life eat in that supermarket cafeteria never again . trust me i had gone their before

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    • Wade Shepard November 4, 2012, 8:44 am

      Yes, you are right! 🙂

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  • Jessy July 24, 2019, 3:59 pm

    Wow this is the most disrespectful blog I’ve ever read. It may bad to you but to others that’s been raised with it, we love it. “Wet terd” “crappy food” . You know what’s terd related and crappy food? Your American fast food that makes you Americans over weight and ugly. I understand you so t like it but there’s a more professional approach to it. I’m glad you didn’t like it maybe you don’t ever have to step your American fat ass in our country again.

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    • Wade Shepard July 25, 2019, 10:02 am

      It’s funny how some people get angry when someone doesn’t agree with them. Also, I’m not fat.

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  • Trevor July 26, 2019, 3:49 pm

    Hmmm wanted to comment but refrained from doing so…

    So here is to something completely u related

    UK got an all time hot yesterday. 38.7deg C and as a mailman, working out side for 9 hrs was hell..

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    • Wade Shepard July 27, 2019, 10:44 am

      Haha, I bet you were wishing you were in the tropics to cool off — even if that means having to eat shit Dominican food.

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  • Trevor July 26, 2019, 3:51 pm

    ** un** related

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  • Trevor July 27, 2019, 12:04 pm


    i luv Kenyan Ugali made of maize flour and water. (had some today as cooked by my Kenyan work mate) it is virtually tasteless but goes great with beans or greens or anything…but i hate injera from ethiopia which looks like and tastes like soggy carboard

    but turd on toast just aint gonna work… just wanna provoke some of your readers…

    it was quire hilarious how many people got wound up over ur post.

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    • Wade Shepard July 27, 2019, 5:20 pm

      How small does someone’s world need to be for them to get upset over someone they don’t even know not liking some food that they like? Why do they care what food I eat? I believe this triggers an element of insecurity — as in, what if I’m right? What if this food really is shit? Oh no! Better attack. If it didn’t I have no idea why they would care.

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