Any visit to Cuba will certainly mean experiencing its unique cuisine, which is characterized by Spanish, African and Caribbean influences. If you are used to eating Dominican and Puerto Rican food, then you will be able to find several similarities. Due to its past rich naval history, when many Cuban ships were sailing the oceans of the world, it is possible to trace a few Chinese influences in some of the Cuban dishes as well. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that the most important influence in the Cuban cuisine comes from Spain.
An ordinary Cuban meal is made out of rice and beans, which are sometimes cooked together and sometimes not. Congri is the name given to this dish, which contains beans and rice. In fact, rice is one of the most common Cuban dishes. In many houses rice is eaten with a mix of olives, raisins and capers, a combination that brings out the typical taste of the Cuban cuisine. When it comes to eating meat, the Cuban people prefer pork or beef. They also eat vegetables like carrots, cucumber, avocados, cabbage, lettuce and tomatoes.
Meat is usually served with the special Mojo sauce, which contains garlic, onion, several spices like oregano and bitter orange or lime. Tamales are very popular as well; they are made out of corn flour, shortening and pork meat. The Cubans also love to eat soups and stews, which they cook using corn, meat and vegetables.
Today the Cuban cuisine has been greatly influenced by the international trends in cooking and many of the top Cuban chefs have learned to blend and mix various worldwide ingredients. Pastelitos is another common dish which is made out of puff pastry filled with sliced fruit, guava or beef, croquetas (cylinders of paste, cooked with bechamel sauce and ham, chicken, beef, cheese or fish), papas rellenas (fried potato balls filled with beef), picadillo a la Habanera and ninos envueltos (beef filled with alcaparrado and pepper sauce).
As Cubans love fish, they eat it a lot. However, lobsters are not very common among the locals, as they can be quite pricey. Crabs are common in the coastline towns and villages. Shrimps and cod are eaten on a regular basis as well.
Cubans also eat sandwiches which are made off traditional Cuban bread, slices of roasted pork, Swiss cheese, Serrano ham, dill pickles and yellow mustard. Other sandwich models contain Genoa salami, layered with other meats. There are numerous sandwich types that Cuban love to eat and tourists fall in love with: medianoche sandwich, pan con lechon, Elena Ruz, pana con timba and pan con chorizo are just a few of the tastiest examples. During the 1930s, the frita has gained a lot of popularity in Cuba. The frita resembles the American hamburger: it is made out of beef mixed with chorizo.
There are not many options for the vegetarians in Cuba, as most of the popular dishes contain different kinds of meats. In fact, there are not many vegetarians in Cuba, because the meat occupies a very important place on the table in any Cuban family.
Vegetables don’t play an important role in Cuba, although the country has sufficient amounts of vegetables and fruit. Basically, the vegetarian food is limited to a few dishes consisting of rice and beans.
When it comes to desserts, ice cream is the most popular one by far. Cubans like to eat ice cream with chocolate or caramel sauce, and this type of ice cream is sold in many stores. Another well-liked dessert consists of ice shavings, which are soaked in sweet syrup.