Soul Cocina

Eco Chef Roger Feely

Quipe Gaga

While visiting the Dominican Republic a few years ago, I was on the hunt for Dominican vinyl records, cds and recipes. The recipes were easy to find. Everyone wanted to share their recipe for the best version of all the Dominican staples like habichuela con dulce, mangu, sancocho, and quipe*. I brought back plenty of CDs. The best were form the beach shacks. I would here something I liked and ask the people working there what the music was, and often they ofered to sell a copy of the cd. This was right at the time when mambo aka merengue del calle, the newest version of merengue urbano was gaining momentum. I liked the energy and rawnesss of the stripped down sped up sound, but nothing beats straight classic heavy hitting merengue. One sound I became interested in was gaga. It was mysterious because I couldn't understand most of the lyrics and the cds were all unlabelled. The explanations from the beach shack vendors were all vague and inconsistant. When I asked other people on the island about gaga, they were not very interested in the topic and were hesitant to comment on my curiosity. I have been searching for more and more gaga ever since I bought my first gaga CD about 5 or 6 years ago in Boca Chica. When I play that CD now people are always amazed and think it is some brand new stuff.
The original gaga sound uses some interesting instruments that look like didgeridoos.

Tune: Unknown Boca Chica Gaga track 7

Tune: Unknown Boca Chica Gaga track 9

Gaga is a Haitian import that has become Dominican. Here is a quote from a Dominican forum about gaga:

"Even if Gaga came to the DR via Haiti, the fact that those who practice it are Dominicans as well as Haitians, it is as Dominican as other cultural adoptions like quipes and chofan."

Chofan=Dominican version of Chinese Chow Fan aka fried rice
*Quipe= Dominican name for Levantine Kibbeh.

Ask anyone in Santo Domingo to list some famous Dominican dishes and quipe will probably make the list. Brought to DR by immigrants from Syria, Jordan and Palestine, the original kibbeh is pretty similar to the Dominican quipe. The first time I ever heard about the original kibbeh was in one of my favorite cookbooks by one of my favorite cookbook authers, Paula Wolfart's Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, where she dedicates an entire chapter to kibbeh. Quipe is made in many parts of Latin America. But it has a special place in Dominican culture. Quipe is a snack, an appetizer, street food or a whole meal. It is basically a meat and bulgur fried quenelle filled with ground meat. Although there are variations of Kibbeh. Lamb or beef. Some are poached instead of fried and some are eaten raw. The quipe in DR is usaully fried and filled with ground beef and nuts.

I served my recent batch of quipe with a salad of tomatoes, corn and Armenian cucumbers.
The outer shell of quipe is made by soaking bulgur wheat in water for half an hour and then blending with ground beef. The ratio I like is 50/50 bulgur to beef.Ground lamb is cooked with garlic, pine nuts, currants and a spice blend of cumin, allspice, clove, and a pinch of turmeric. Lots of chopped parsley is added.
The bulghur-beef shell is formed around your finger to create a hollow quenelle shape.

The shells are filled and the quipe is deep fried.

Tune: Merengue con Gaga by Amarfis & La Banda De Atakke

Tune: Ponte Freaky by Fulanito

Tune: Dembow de Mozart by Mozart La Para

Tune: Ma I'ndi Shak by Nawal Al Zoghbi (نوال الزغبي)

I received a new merengue comp directly from Santo Domingo earlier this week called Merengue Urbano 2009. I have been checking these style comps over the last decade and they keep getting worse and worse. I am happy to report, that this year there has been a slight growth of interest in Gaga sounds for modern Dominican productions. The round of 2009 hits have a few gems.

Tune: Hippo Big by Fulanito Aka Dose Rock?
A few gaga notes on the beat.

And the big tune on the comp....
Tune: Pon Lo Patra by El Chireno
Big Gaga beat za za za tra tra tra

Tune: Bulto To (Remix) Feat Watatah & Fulanito by Rinal Klein
autotune merengue with dancehall flow! Check Watatah on the Doctor's Darling riddim up on hi myspace.

And Santero tipped me off to the new bachata sounds of DR by recommending Grupo Optimo and the new releases of Aventura and Anthony Santos.

Tune: El Cuchillo by Grupo Optimo

Wish I could make it out to Slims in SF tomorrow night for Quantic. But I will be busy in the kitchen.
Tune: So Long feat Allice Russel by Quantic from Mishaps Happening

Tune: Mi Swing es Tropical {Zeb Reggae Remix} by Quantic and Nicodemus

Tune: dubstep Halal [snippet] by Zeb

Tune: Ruperta {Zeb Remix} by Novalima

Music: Here is some Dub for Days

And cool off with some Busy/Ghislain Poirier
Tune: Cool Baby (Poirier Remix) by Busy Signal