An exotic land in the Caribbean greets you with the striking rhythm of the ‘Salsa’; you look across pleasant tropical weather and breath-taking beaches. Your senses are slowly enveloped with the rich aroma of freshly brewed caf; cubano and lit cigars.
If you are already intoxicated, you can imagine what the rest of this sensuous Cuban island can do to you.
It is said that the Cubans love their men, solid and strong; the children, round and chubby; and their women, curvy and sensuous. It isn’t a surprise then, that hearty meals would constitute a very integral part of their daily routine. As part of their culture, every Cuban is expected to deeply relish and take pride in the succulent variety, quantity and seasoning of their food.
Let’s dig-in and party – Cuban Style
The Cuban cuisine has been highly influenced by Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic and African cultures. In times of festivity, Cubans would have three exciting terms for you – Roast Pig, Congri and Beer. The traditional roast is made by marinating a pig with salt, garlic and sour orange juice, and slowly roasting it above a charcoal fire.
Congri is a mixture of white rice and black beans. The cultural feast is not complete without iced beer, and other accompaniments like ‘Yucca’ that has been garnished with chopped parsley, onion and lemon, ‘Mangala’ or Corn Fritters, fried Banana Patty and Tomato Salad with lettuce.
Popular Cuban breakfasts usually consist of ‘Tostada’, which refers to buttered and toasted Cuban bread. This is broken to be dipped in ‘Café con leche’, which is a combination of strong espresso coffee with warm milk. ‘Ham Croquetas’, which is smoky and creamed ham, is another hot favorite.
Cuban lunches would typically have ‘Empanadas’ – a common bakery finger food item. You would also have chicken or meat turnovers, or Cuban sandwiches. Interestingly, Cuban sandwiches are quite popularly exported to the U.S, and usually consist of cheese, ham, bacon, pickles, mayonnaise, egg and bread. Quite a mouthful! For Dinner, Cubans would have a dish of meat, chicken or fish, which is accompanied by white rice, black beans and ‘maduros’, and a salad of tomatoes, onions or avaocados.
Catering to the sweet tooth
Mouth-watering Cuban desserts may vary from the typical ‘flan’, which is caramel-flavored custard, to bread or rice puddings, with shots of café cubano. Other delicious varieties are those like the guava marmalade with yellow cheese slices or yucca crullers in anise-flavored syrup.
What’s that flavor?
It is said that you would not be true to Cuban cooking, if you did not lavishly and frequently use Olive oil. Cubans use olive oil for almost all their sauces. Sofrito is another flavor base that is used a lot. It consists of onion, garlic, oregano, green pepper and ground pepper which are quick-fried in olive oil.
So, if you are ever out to try a real Cuban meal, you will know exactly what to ask for. And do not forget, the cherry on the cake is to top it all with a night of dancing and fun…, Cuban style.