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Best of Cuban Food and Cuisine

Cuban cuisine and dishes

Cuba has an exciting and large culinary culture to explore and which is for me, one of the great attractions when visiting, no matter what part of the country you are spending time in. Whilst you can easily find standard Western food such as pizza or burger chains, this is a country is which the food, whilst fairly simplistic and basic (much like Italian food), is based on a few staple foods and cooked in a variety of ways. The old of less is more one can apply to the cuisine here in that the dishes are fewer than in some countries but they certainly know how to cook here and make a dish taste splendid. If food is important to you, this is a country which should be on your list of places to visit.

What are the most common foods? As with many countries, the core ingredient to the majority of meals is meat, and the main meats which you will find in Cuba are chicken, pork, beef and fish. The dominant ingredient will differ depending on which area of Cuba you visit, so for example if you visit a coastal area you will be more likely to find fresh fish dishes, although the popularity of it across the country ensures that it is never in short supply regardless of where you go. Beef can be harder to come by as a result of government rationing, but one thing is for sure, and that is the certainty that all menus will be packed with meat dishes.

Havana restaurantWhat do Cubans like to have with meat? Potatoes, whilst not hard to come by, are traditionally not as common in Cuba as in many other countries in the world. The Cubans love their rice and cook it in many different ways. If you want to experience a true Cuban meal then ask for mixed beans to go with your meat and rice, and be ready to experience a significant hint of garlic and onion in all meals as these are the main sources of seasoning used.

So is the food as spicy as in other nearby countries? 

Surprisingly, no.  The levels of spice in Cuban food is actually quite tame in comparison to other nearby countries, although with the variety of restaurants around you are sure to find something spicy if that is what you are after.

Most Cuban cuisine is a combination of local innovation and traditional recipes and flavours from Spain, Africa and the Caribbean. Listed below are five of the best and most authentic Cuban dishes you must try while on holiday there.

Favourite Cuba Dishes

Paul’s Choice

  1. Tamales – Usually made with corn dough as the base, tamales can be filled with almost everything, including a variety of meats and cheese.
  2. Ropa Vieja – This dish, which is very popular in Cuba, traces its origins to the Canary Islands and first came to the island with its Canarian immigrants. The Ropa Vieja is a shredded meat or mince dish and is well flavoured with garbanzo beans and potatoes.
  3. Platillo Moros y Cristianos – This is one of the fragrant rice dishes most associated with Cuba; the Platillo Moros y Cristianos is a culinary history lesson and refers to the Moors (black beans) and Christians (white rice) who were an integral part of Cuba’s history. The rice and beans can either be served separate or together and are flavoured with black pepper, oregano and bay leaves. The dish can be eaten in combination with a meat or vegetable dish.
  4. Croquetas – One of the most popular kinds of finger foods in Cuba, Croquetas are the Cuban version of the French Croquette. This dish is usually prepared using a rather heavy cream sauce and meat, be it ground beef or ham, chicken or fish and in some cases, cheese. This mix is then rolled in bread crumbs and fried until crispy.
  5. Cuban sandwich – A sandwich made popular in Cuba by its factory workers, some of the more popular fillings in a traditional Cuban sandwich include pickles, mustard, roast beef, pork and salami on traditional Cuban bread.

Valeria’s Selection

One of the most exciting aspects of travelling around the world is the opportunity to sample new dishes and explore the different tastes with which different cultures are accustomed. Cuba is highly cultural and, as such, there is range of local dishes to try. Below are just some of them:

Cuban Beef Hash – This classical meal is one of the dishes most traditionally associated with Cuba. It is similar to Bolognese in both appearance and ingredients, but is generally eaten with rice as opposed to pasta. It can also be enjoyed as a filling for pies.

Cuban Sandwhich – There are many different variations of the Cuban sandwich, but one thing that most have in common is that meat is a key ingredient. More often than not pork will be the key ingredient.

Moros Y Christianos – This recipe sees the combination of Cuban black beans and rice complimented by delightful spices and ingredients to give a truly authentic experience. The name of the dish originates from the darkness of the beans against the white rice. The combination of beans and rice is typical of Cuban cuisine and this is one of the best ways to enjoy it.

Arroz Con Pollo – One way to describe this dish is as the Mexican equivalent of the curry. The dish is created by combining chicken with onions, garlic and tomatoes and is generally served with rice.

Ropa Vieja – This is a traditional Cuban stew which is generally served with rice, although it can often be found accompanied by tortillas. Many different meats are used but generally braised beef is the central ingredient.

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