If you have ever visited Miami or been inside a Cuban restaurant, you know just how magical Cuban food can be. If you get the chance to spend some time in Cuba, there are some foods that are absolutely worth the money (which inevitably may not be much money anyway).
Cuban food has many different influences, ranging from African, Caribbean, Spanish, and Taino cultures. When you visit Cuba, you’ll find that there is quite a lot of food to be had for not too high a price. In fact, most meals cost less than $10.00. Here is a list of Cuban food you have to try:
This is a classic Cuban fish. There is a lot going on in this dish. You choose your meat of choice; it can be chicken, pork, or beef, though some people opt to put in seafood or fish instead. With it, you get a large serving of fried plantains and Congri. You cannot have comida criolla without congri. Congri or moros y cristianos is white rice with black beans, smothered in garlic, spices and oil.
And don’t worry; there is even salad to balance out your meal. It’s the sort of heavy meal that is perfect after a long day of walking around and sightseeing. The plantains are farmed locally and enough to make your mouth water.
You usually think of tamales as a dough filled with meat, much like they are done in Mexico. However, Cuban tamales take the dough and mix it in with the meat. It gives the plate a seriously full taste and easy way to pick up the circular disks. You can get them freshly made so they are still dripping with heat. Careful not to burn yourself though, they can get seriously hot.
Ropa vieja, otherwise translated as old clothes, is another classic Cuban dish. It is particularly popular in Miami, where there is a large Cuban expat community (if you are ever in Miami, check out Versailles, a restaurant which became famous over the last four decades for its importance to the Cuban expat community). The dish comes with shredded beef, rice, beans, and vegetables. The meal is said to originally come from the Canary Islands but is also popular in Puerto Rico. It’s an extremely filling comfort food that makes any day instantly better.
Translated as ‘midnight,’ this is the food to get when you are out clubbing in Havana. The equivalent of Europeans to kebab or Americans to diner pancakes at 3 am, medianoche makes everything better after a long night. It’s a sandwich made with sweet bread (egg bread to be specific) and your choice of filling. The classic has ham and/or pork, sprinkled with a little bit (or a lot of cheese) and topped with pickles. Why stay in a dingy night club past 2 when you can curl up with this warm delight and some TV instead?
Pernil Relleno de Moros y Cristianos
What is better than one Cuban dish? A Cuban dish with another Cuban dish inside. Pernil Relleno de Moros y Cristianos is a yummy cut of the best quality pork shoulder you can find. It almost comes off the bone when hot. The shoulder is put in a marinade of garlic, pepper, oregano and just a little bit of orange juice for zest. The shoulder is then stuffed to capacity with rice and beans before getting final cooking in the oven. The result is a warm, flavorful mastery of cuisine with the meat flavors seeping into the rice. It’s simply one of the most divine dishes you will ever taste.
Cuban food has no shortage of meat in its cuisine. Frita can satisfy any meat lover’s craving. Frita is a minced beef dish that is very similar to what you would think when you get a hamburger. You put a little chorizo inside the beef and stick it into a bun and sprinkle some fries on top and voila! Frita. If you really want to up the ante, put some lime, salt, and a little bit of garlic in the meat and fry it to a crisp for vaca frita instead. The juicy meat is to die for.
This barely even hits the surface of the food you will find in Cuba. Cuban food is a rich tapestry of cuisine that will leave in the pickiest of eaters coming back for more. And all of it is within budget. If you are taking a trip to Cuba or even just taking a trip to a Cuban restaurant, keep an eye out for these culinary classics. You won’t regret taking the risk.