Cuban cuisine

by Hoohla

Cuban cuisine is a combination of different cultures, although in its varied dishes. It has a blend of Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines, in the preparation and spices. It also has some little, but significant Chinese influence, which can be found in some areas in Havana. Cuban food is greatly influenced by Indigenous, African, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, and different Spanish regions.

During the colonial period, Havana was a very important trading port. There are were many passing immigrants from Spain, especially, from the Southern part of Spain, such as Andalucía, and several other places, such as Asturias. Many Cuban dishes have their roots in Andalucía, Spain.

Unique Cuban Cuisine

Native Cubans lived mainly by fishing, hunting, and cultivation of cassava, sweet potato, corn, and black beans. This food gave way Spanish food but you can see some authentic dishes in Cuban cuisine. The most popular dish to have survived from that era is casabe. It is bread from cassava that has been grated, strained, formed into cake shapes and grilled on an iron griddle.

Cuban cuisine is unique and different from other cultures. Travelers and visitors from other parts of the world have sometimes associated Cuban cuisine with, for example, Mexican cuisine. Although we share some Spanish traditions. Mexican food is a combination of Spanish and Aztec foods and traditions. Cuban cuisine has been heavily influenced by the distinctive history of the Caribbean and its ancient travelers.

The Spanish and Africans bring many ingredients and cooking methods to the local cuisine.

By tradition, Cubans are not used to measure all ingredients when cooking (except for desserts). They like to add more or less certain amounts of spices to their recipes, according to taste or preferences. However, all meals, whether with more or fewer spices, have the distinctive seasoning and signature of the Cuban taste. 

Soups and stews form an important part of the Cuban diet. The national dish of Cuba el ajiaco, a soup or stew derived from the classic Spanish “pot au feu” olla podrida but using local ingredients, is one example of this. This stew is made from various vegetables such as taro root, cassava, sweet potato, corn, yam, squash, and plantain boiled with pork, chicken, or dried beef.

A traditional Cuban meal consists primarily of rice and beans. A typical criollo dish, but its preparation and technique vary with the region.  When rice and beans are cooked together, it is called: “Arroz Moro”, “Arroz Congrí”, or simply “Congrí. When they are cooked separately, it is called “Arroz y/con Frijoles” (Rice and/with Beans).

Typical Cuban Main Course

The typical Cuban main course consists mainly of pork, beef, or chicken, accompanied by grains (especially rice), or “viandas” (some sort of vegetables).

Cuban food tends to be highly seasoned with what call: “sofrito”, a combination of different spices to make a traditional base sauce for many recipes. The “sofrito” may include tomato, garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, parsley, and olive oil, although the list of the ingredients varies with dishes, recipes, and region.

Cubans’ favorite meats are chicken and pork. Roast leg of pork or suckling pig marinated in sour orange, cumin, garlic, oregano, and salt is the main dish at all major feasts and celebrations.

The word “vianda” is not the same as the French word: viande, which means “meat”. The Cuban word “vianda”, incorporates different types of tubers. For example: boniato (yam or white sweet potato), yucca (cassava), potato, and malanga (taro root), as well as plantains (ripe and unripe), and corn. An additional popular side dish is a salad. Usually, it is simply composed of lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado. But may also have carrots, cucumber, radish, cabbage, and even beets.

The rice is eaten daily in Cuba with stews, broth and other dishes. Classic examples include stews prepared with the shellfish (lobster or shrimp) with chili and seasoned with a sofrito and white wine – enchilada de langosta o camarones.

Cuban cuisine has been changing with the years. Still influenced by different cultures, Cuban cuisine is unique and delicious in its own particular way.

Stews can either be based around vegetables or cereals flavored with meat or fish, or be primarily of beef, poultry, or fish and seasoned with vegetables or simply a sofrito.

Thick vegetable broths in the Spanish style with white, black, or kidney beans as well as dried peas are most often used for these broths.

There is also okra stew with plantain dumplings, and chicken “Rancho Luna” marinated in garlic and sour orange, two basic flavorings in Cuban stews.

Many Cubans have preserved the use of its traditional ingredients and the way to prepare their varied dishes, wherever they are in the world. Others, on the other hand, have added their own touch, which might include spices and ingredients from the country in which they now reside. However, we are still very careful to maintain the traditions that we learned from our parents, keeping intact the unique and distinctive flavor of the traditional Cuban cuisine.

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