Cuban Food & Cuisine History
Cuban cuisine has gone through a dramatic metamorphosis in recent years. Once considered to be peasant food due to its humble beginnings with the island’s poorer tenants, the style is now considered one of the hottest food trends; restaurants from Miami to Los Angeles are serving to packed houses nightly. However, the heart of Cuban cooking is neither about the lack nor abundance of sophistication, it is about the gathering of family, friends, and neighbors coming together over a common love of food and drink.
A typical Cuban breakfast, spent among friends and family, usually includes a piece of grilled, buttered Cuban bread, known as a tostada, and a cup of coffee; the style of coffee differs based on the consumer. For the more laid back drinker, a café con leche, otherwise known as a coffee with milk, may be requested while for those on the go, a shot of the stronger, more-caffeine laden Café Cubano may be preferred. In addition to this bread and coffee standard, it is not uncommon to see Cubans snacking treats such as ham croqueticas and guava Pastelitos.
For lunch in Cuba, as with breakfast, simple is best. That is why the menu is filled with a variety of sandwiches such as the medianoche. Translated as midnight, this sandwich includes pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mayonnaise, and mustard brought together in a pressed sandwich. The pan con bistec is another Cuban standard with palomilla steak, tomato slices, and crispy potato sticks. However, no authentic Cuban lunch would be complete with just a sandwich. Plantain chips, known as mariquitas, have a popularity that rivals the American potato craze. And finally, all of this gets washed down with a soda, the most popular being a Malta or Ironber.
Cuban dinners receive more time and care as they will be a place for family and friends to congregate at the end of the day. Many of these special dishes begin with a sofrito, a flavorful mix of onions, green peppers, garlic, oregano and bay leaves which are sautéed together. From this blend, dishes such as Pork Picadillo, a ground meat and olive dish to rabo encendido, an oxtail soup, are begun. Many dishes are accompanied by the Cuban classic combination of black beans and rice as well as plantains. The plantain, a relative of the more familiar banana, can be prepared in a variety of ways, from the sweet maduros to the twice-fried tostones.
Due to Cuba’s abundance of sugarcane, it is not surprising that sweet dishes are popular on the tropical island. A rich egg custard dripping in carmelized sugar, called flan, is arguably Cuba’s most famous dessert though it is by no means alone. For example, those with a sweet tooth can choose from treats such as capuchinos, which are cone shaped yellow cakes soaked in a sweet sugar syrup, to brazo gitano, a sponge cake filled with the island’s traditional guava paste and rolled. Another popular dish is Pudin de Pan, which translates as Bread Pudding. It was created as a way to avoid wasting stale bread. In fact, many Cuban sweet and savory dishes are based on using what was readily available in the most appetizing way. That is why the style has translated so well across cultures – the desire to share good food and good times with family and friends is a universal one.
We hope this overview has helped you to better understand the diversity of Cuban cuisine. Of course, the best learning is accomplished through experience so we encourage you to use our site and find the Cuban restaurant that has been waiting for you. !Buen apetito!
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