Is There A Pork Equivalent To Country Style Steak Recipe A Movable Feast: Cuban Foods

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A Movable Feast: Cuban Foods

Cuban cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African, and Caribbean (Native American) cuisines and includes recipes, spices, and cooking derived from all three cultures. This results in an interesting mix that tends to be simple, with fresh vegetables, fruit, cassava, beans, roast meat and fish. In Cuba, rice and beans are staples, along with chicken, pork, and beef, as in more traditional Spanish and Mexican dishes, but the combinations and cooking methods are different.

Legendary author Ernest Hemingway spent years in Cuba, writing and enjoying the local cuisine before dictator Fidel Castro overthrew the country’s government in 1959, closing one of America’s favorite vacation spots. But Cuban cuisine is thriving in South Florida, and walking into a Cuban restaurant looking for fish tacos, chicken enchiladas, or shrimp burritos is an exercise in futility. You won’t find them unless they are heavily Americanized. You will find authentic Cuban cuisine flavored with spices, a base of rice and black beans, and delicious dishes with bananas and other tropical fruits. Regardless of Fidel Castro flying in from the States for private dinners, here’s a sampling of what’s topping the charts for the locals:

Cuba’s national dish: Ropa Vieja (shredded steak in tomato sauce), black beans, yellow rice, fried yuca and plantains, washed down with a cold local beer;

In second place is definitely the Arroz Con Pollo (Rice with Chicken), as simple as it gets;

Moors and Christians: black beans and rice;

Fried plantains: a frequent side dish; (the skin of ripe plantains is almost black, so don’t let this confuse you);

Tuna in spicy tomato sauce; there is a lot of tuna (bonito) in Cuba;

Yucca plant: (Cassava) a starchy substitute for potatoes;

Sofrito: a basic tomato sauce that is added to meat or rice dishes;

Flan: (baked custard) a popular dessert like in Mexico;

Helado de Mango: tropical mango sorbet;

Aceitunas Alinadas: marinated olives;

Ensalada Cubana Tipica: (Cuban salad) basic raw salad with tomatoes;

Their most popular and staple spices are available almost everywhere in the US and include bay leaf, oregano, coriander, cumin and pepper. Many sauces have a tomato base.

In Cuba, plantains and bananas account for 47% and 24%, respectively, of local production and are grown only for domestic consumption. Other tropical fruits grown in Cuba are mango, papaya, pineapple, avocado and guava. Plantains have never been popular in the US because we prefer our bananas and plantains have a sweeter taste and are usually used in cooking rather than just eaten raw. It is undoubtedly an acquired taste that most Americans have never acquired.

Cuban cuisine can be vegetarian-friendly with its heavy use of beans, rice, vegetables and fruits, but don’t expect to order tofu or any other protein substitute. Most Cubans are poor, so the local food can be quite limited without the addition of some kind of meat, fish or poultry. However, don’t let that stop you from enjoying some of their hot sauces, salads and rice dishes. Yucca is a popular starch, as is corn, but not in the typical tortilla form of Mexican cuisine. (And guaranteed, you won’t find cornbread and butter or puppies made from corn, either.)

Although many countries may speak the same Spanish language, this in no way guarantees that they eat the same food. So go ahead and expand your repertoire by exploring Cuban cuisine when you get the chance, and don’t compare it to our Mexican favorites. There are no fast food restaurants in Havana, but if there were, you can bet Taco Bell wouldn’t be among them.

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