Cuban cuisine is a mix of Spanish, African, Creole cuisine. It is characterized by its own unique ingredients and recipes from the Caribbean. And although it may seem that this cuisine is primitive due to the economic situation in the country, the dishes of this island are unique due to the prevailing traditions.
Description of Cuban cuisine
Peasant cuisine is the basis of traditional Cuban cuisine. fried or simmered dishes predominate here. The recipes contain ingredients such as beans, rice, meat, vegetables. To give the dishes a special taste, various sauces, aromatic herbs and spices are added to them.
Cuban cuisine is influenced by African, Creole and Spanish cultures.
There is also a special Sofrito blend that consists of onions, green peppers, oregano, garlic and ground pepper, fried in olive oil. Thanks to this additive, the food becomes rich in taste. Even fruits in Cuba, most often a banana or pineapple, are served fried and with a special sauce.
Root vegetables are frequent guests on the Cuban table, for example, yucca, yams (sweet potatoes), taro. They are easy to find throughout Latin America. They can be used as a side dish to various dishes. Meat and poultry are most often marinated in citrus juice (mostly lemon) – this gives the food a slight sour taste.
Features and distinctive features
One of the hallmarks of Cuban cuisine is the addition of a large amount of seafood to the dishes. The proximity to the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean justifies this.
Fishing in Cuba is one of the key sectors of the economy, which is why the island has many fish markets and restaurants with a variety of seafood on the menu.
Cubans are not used to Western products. For example, they are not familiar with soda, candy, cakes, ketchup and mayonnaise. However, this fact does not in the least speak about the meager diet of local residents, on the contrary, Cubans are avid meat eaters. They can roast and bake meat, adding a variety of spices to it. Therefore, the Cubans practically do not have chronic diseases caused by the type of diet.
The island’s national drink, rum, cannot be ignored either. It is made from sugarcane juice and molasses (a by-product of sugar production). Young rum, which has a high alcohol content, is added to cocktails such as the famous mojito or Cuba Libre. Rum, which is aged in oak barrels for 5-7 years, is consumed neat and preferably with ice.
The history of the development of Cuban cuisine
Cuban cuisine is a fusion of world traditions. More than one nation has influenced local recipes. In the course of the development of this island state, dishes acquired uniqueness and originality.
How Spain influenced Cuban cuisine
With the beginning of the era of great geographical discoveries, the colonization of America began. This event also affected the island state. In 1492 the Spaniards first landed on Cuban soil. The conquistadors brought cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, goats, as well as ducks and chickens to the island. This allowed the locals to get to know different types of meat and learn how to grow it in Cuba. In addition, the Spaniards brought in many new products, for example, turnips, pumpkins, oranges, lemons, beans, and with them new ways of cooking.
Over time, the Indians became less and less in connection with their extermination and extinction, so the Spaniards found another labor force – slaves from Africa. Africans brought with them their traditions, beliefs and recipes.
The cooks in many homes in large cities such as Havana or Santiago were from the African continent – some of the Cuban dishes came from them, for example, Congri.
Fidel Castro’s reign
After the Americans left the island, Cuba had a hard time. with the departure of the former liberators, American goods also disappeared. People are so accustomed to the fact that everything is always in stock that they did not even know how the products ended up in Cuba. However, the victory of Fidel Castro quickly revived the situation.
For example, the Cuba Libre cocktail, where one of the main ingredients is Coca-Cola, lost this American carbonated drink, but the new government helped to master the production of its own analogue. Over time, Cuba even managed to master the sale of its cola for export.
The same situation has arisen with ice, which is often added to famous Cuban cocktails. Freezing ice became available to local residents, because they have mastered this technology. In addition, Fidel Castro maintained positive bilateral relations with the USSR: the assistance of the Soviet Union contributed greatly to the development of Cuban production.
Love for sweets in Cuba
There is a lot of sugar cane on the island, so sugar is added to different dishes. In Cuba, sweet taste is loved everywhere, even in cocktails. If you ask the local bartender to make a sugar-free mojito, he will sooner dissuade you, because in Cuba it is considered tasteless. According to Cubans, if a person has enough sugar, has free access to it, then he has achieved a lot in life.
Cubans love and know how to cook delicious desserts.
Fidel Castro, who loved ice cream, also had a craving for sweets. Instead of smoking breaks, he could easily take a break for his favorite sweet food. The president even decided to compete with the Americans and create his own, the best ice cream in the world. About 36 unique recipes were invented, which later found their reflection in a cafe called Coppelia. The new establishments have become popular among Cubans. Sometimes there were long queues in the cafe, because many wanted to try the fancy ice cream flavors.
Main products of Cuban cuisine
The products of this island cuisine are familiar to many people and are now easy to find in any store.
The Cubans have succeeded in turning this familiar food into masterpieces.
Rice and beans
Beans in Cuba are often the staple of the diet. it has a high content of vegetable protein, which allows you to saturate and support the body. Rice, which the Chinese introduced the Cubans to, is also a popular side dish on the island. However, the most common side dish on the table is a mixture of rice and beans. It can be in two versions, it all depends on the color of the beans.
If red beans are used, then this dish is congri, and if the beans are black, then these are Moros and Cristianos (translated”Moors and Christians”, the Spaniards gave this name in memory of the war with the Arabs). Rice with beans can often be found at the festive table along with meat, for example, pork, and this side dish is often offered to tourists in local hotels as a dish for lunch or dinner.
Fish and seafood
Even before the arrival of the Spaniards in Cuba, the locals preferred fish and seafood, because the favorable location of the island in the middle of the water made it possible to get them. Now on the island of Liberty there are many cafes and restaurants, where you can choose from all kinds of fish, shrimp, lobster, lobster, mussels.
Here they are cooked fresh and not thawed. All seafood can be baked, boiled or fried either on the grill or on a skewer. The dishes are served with sauces with olive oil, black pepper, nuts and bread crumb.
Cuban cuisine has a lot of seafood, rice, and legumes.
Pork and chicken
Pork and chicken are common foods in Cuba. They can be bought in local markets at an affordable price and are easier to find than, for example, beef, which is a delicacy here. There are many pork or chicken dishes. They can be prepared in various ways with the addition of spices and sauces. Often, Cubans prefer to marinate meat for several hours, and sometimes even a day before serving. it lends complexity and depth to the flavor.
What national dishes to try in Cuba
Locals have come up with many recipes based on the traditions of the past and the experience of the present. These dishes can be found on the home table, on the street, in hotels, cafes and restaurants.
This is a traditional Cuban burger. It consists of beef cutlet, minced meat is seasoned with various spices, sometimes chorizo (spicy pork sausage from Spain) is added to it. The meat is covered with crispy potato strips. The bottom and top of the burger are soft buns.
Some recipes add scrambled eggs to this Cuban burger.
Translated into “old clothes”. This strange name is due to the fact that the dish contains chopped beef. It is cut in a way that resembles a piece of cloth. The meat is stewed in tomato sauce with bell peppers, onions, garlic and wine. Beef like this is often served with white rice or maduros (fried sweet bananas).
Street food is native to Spain. This is a fried dessert based on choux pastry. In cross-section, it looks like a multi-pointed star. Churros is sprinkled with powdered sugar. It is customary to dip these sticks in hot chocolate and serve them along with coffee with milk for breakfast.
Churros is the favorite street food of Cubans.
This dish consists of eggs and is a popular breakfast on the island. Sofrito – tomato sauce with peppers, onions and garlic – is added to such scrambled eggs. Thanks to this addition, the dish familiar to everyone acquires an unusual taste with hints of ethnic flavor.
Cuban cuisine often uses a side dish of rice and beans. This mixture is the main ingredient in the Congri dish. It’s easy to cook. It is enough to add sauce with sweet pepper and garlic – then you get a piquant taste. Bay leaves, oregano and aromatic spices make the dish spicy.
This type of garnish is the most popular in Cuba and is served with meat.
Or just fried bananas. First, a batter is made, in which the bananas are enveloped. Then they are fried in a pan until golden brown. The dish can be served on the table sprinkled with nuts or with the addition of natural honey.
Snack in the form of plump balls, cylinders is often found on the streets of Cuba. Croquettes are used as a snack for beer. This dish is made from meat, and from any. The food is crispy with the bread crumbs, and the golden color is achieved with the deep fat. Tomato or garlic sauces go well with balls.
Arroz con poyo
This dish is a combination of rice and chicken. The cooking process is continuous, since the demand for this food is high among not only locals, but also tourists. Arroz con poyo is somewhat similar to the famous paella, but without seafood. Traditionally, the dish has a vegetable dressing.
This is a popular Cuban soup made with chicken or beef broth. The main ingredients of this chowder are potatoes and corn. Lime, herbs, pumpkin and even bananas are added to the broth. Sour cream sauce, avocado slices and capers often accompany this dish on the table.
Ajiaco thick soup is a national dish of Cuban cuisine.
This is a popular Cuban custard pudding dessert. The sugary sweet taste is justified by Cubans’ cravings for sweets. Flan is elastic on the outside and has a delicate texture on the inside. It has a bright creamy taste. In combination with tea or coffee, the dessert acquires new tastes.
Festive Cuban dishes
Lejon is one of the most common dishes served on holidays. It is a roast pig on a skewer, which is spun until its skin is completely crispy. The preparation is non-standard, so this pig is served only on special days.
Moors and Christians are the national dish of the Cubans. It is customary to cook it for important family celebrations, during festive carnivals that take place in many cities. And although the dish is simple, it is hearty – this attracts many residents and tourists to feast on it.
A Cuban sandwich can be seen on the table as an appetizer during the holidays. The halves of a crispy soft bun are greased with butter and mustard. Put meat (pork, ham), pickled cucumbers, hard cheese inside. When grilled, the sandwich becomes crispy and soaked in a pickle and cheese sauce.
For the holidays, Cubans can prepare dishes such as:
- Spicy beans with herbs.
- Rice with fried bananas.
- Cuban mango cream.
- Ropa vieha.
Cuban cuisine can be easily arranged at home.
It is enough to try to prepare intricate dishes using standard ingredients.
Cuban salad with chicken and avocado
- Chicken fillet (1 pc.).
- Lime (2 pcs.).
- Avocado (1 pc.).
- Oranges (1 pc.).
- Red onion (1 head).
- Mint (10 g).
- Olive oil (90 ml).
- Romano salad (150 g).
- Salt (to taste).
- Sugar (to taste).
- Ground black pepper (to taste).
Cuban salad with chicken and avocado is popular all over the world today.
First, the chicken should be cut into thin slices and then soaked in lime juice along with salt and pepper (for 5-10 minutes). After that, fry the meat in oil.
Cut slices from the orange (cutting off the entire white part), chop the onion into thick strips, and cut the avocado into cubes.
Add mint, 60 ml butter, sugar, salt and pepper to lime juice. Stir with a whisk.
Mix romano salad, avocado, onion, chicken, oranges with dressing and serve.
- Flank steak (1 kg).
- Onions (2 heads).
- Green bell pepper (1 pc.).
- Garlic (3 cloves).
- Zira (1 tsp.).
- Lime (3 pcs.).
- Sugar (to taste).
- Bay leaf (1 pc.).
- Vegetable oil (70 ml).
- Salt (to taste).
- Ground black pepper (to taste).
Place coarsely chopped onions and peppers in the pan along with the meat. Pour everything with water, add bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer for another 2-3 hours over low heat.
Remove the cooked meat and let it cool at room temperature.
Then disassemble the meat into fibers, add salt, pepper, pour with lime juice. Add cumin, sugar and garlic. Stir and leave to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
Put coarsely chopped onions in a preheated pan, add meat. Fry until the meat is crispy. Serve with rice and a slice of lime.