The Essential Guide To Enjoy Food Like A Cuban
As I shared in a previous blog, Visit Smokin’ Hot Cuba in 2019, one of the best ways to experience the culture of a new city or country is through its cuisine. Due mainly to its history and location, Cuban cuisine combines Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences which come together to create several of the flavorful and spirited dishes that Cuba is famous for. Some examples are the lechón asado and the congrí. In this blog, I have prepared The Essential Guide To Enjoy Food Like A Cuban to entice you and sharpen your palate to the traditional dishes and flavors that are part of the Cuban table. Now prepare your knife, your fork, and your senses to let this journey begin.
Lechón asado, please. Pork has traditionally been a part of the Cuban table. It is a staple of holiday celebrations such as Christmas and other events throughout the year. A cooking tool called La Caja China or Chinese Box is often used to prepare the pork. It is used to make mouthwatering roast pork with moist meat on the inside, yet crunchy skin on the outside. The original Caja China involves a wooden box often used to roast pork, chicken, and other meats. Metal is now used to make more modern Chinese boxes. A simple side of salad with lettuce, tomato, and onion salad with a little vinegar and olive oil often accompanies the pork. Another favorite side dish is the good old Cuban congrí.
- Rice and beans congrí. I grew up eating some of the best homemade congrí a person could have. As part of a large Cuban-American family, I learned early on that every chef has his or her signature recipe. This dish is prepared with red or black beans, depending on the region where the cook is from or according to personal preference. First, the beans are set to boil and then left to simmer. Next, they are combined with a blend of spices and onions to add flavor. Congrí may sometimes have a splash of wine and even bacon, which gives it a smoky taste. Once the beans are soft, the rice is added and cooked over low heat until the excess moisture is absorbed. The resulting dish is classic comfort food, often enjoyed at many types of meals.
- Yuca con mojo. One of my go-to recipes from Cuban Cuisine has to be the yuca con mojo. Yuca, the root portion of the cassava plant, is a potato-like starch that grows through Central and South American Regions. There are many options for preparation, including fried, pureed, or boiled. The yucas with mojo are often cut in chunks, then cooked, and served tender to the bite. The secret sauce and the star in this dish is the mojo sauce. Argentinians have chimichurri, while Cubans have the mojo. Mojo is a sauce with multiple uses, such as a marinade, rice topping, bread dip, and of course, served with yuca. The mojo sauce also varies by the chef. The basic recipe involves olive oil, garlic, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Some of my favorite mojos also have roasted garlic bits, which gives them that little extra crunch and a fantastic flavor. Some versions of this dish may also have sliced onions.
Have a sweet ending with flan. The traditional Cuban Flan is a melt-in-your-mouth custard with simple ingredients such as eggs, sugar, milk, and caramel. There are many ways to prepare a flan. Some recipes may include condensed milk and even cream cheese, which gives the flan an added thickness. Making the caramel coating right is an art. It starts with the right balance of sugar and water over a heated pan. The mixture will surely burn if left too long in the saucepan. The caramel can also become watery if it removed too quickly from the heat — the right point results in a crystallized and even layer of caramel along the base and sides of the pan. Variations of the flan may include pumpkin and coconut, as well as other flavors and ingredients. However, the traditional flan (my favorite) has a hint of vanilla and a generous serving of caramel brittle with its sauce.
Cafecito, the Cuban way. For many Cubans, coffee is a 24-hour and social affair. Coffee can be present during breakfast, lunch, and sometimes even before bedtime. It is at the center of most social interactions, and it is a custom to offer guests coffee. There are many variations to the Cafecito, and we are sure to find the one that’s right for your taste! At home, Cubans often make coffee using a stove-top metal cafetera or coffee maker. Later in the blog, we will explore Cuban Coffee and the different tools in-depth. For now, let’s review a rundown of the essential ways in which Cubans like to drink their coffee. First, we have the café con leche. This is a similar concept to what some may know as a latte, a mix of coffee with hot milk. Next, we have the cortadito – a must of the Cuban culture. Espresso and steamed milk make up this type of coffee. The big brother to the cortadito is the colada. This drink is the espresso served in a larger cup along with smaller cups for sharing. You will often see a colleague or friend walking around with a tray full of smaller cups of cortadito to share. Finally, we have the colada. This coffee style will also be your sugar fix for the 3 p.m. afternoon pick me up! The colada consists of a nice sugary foam, made by whipping sugar and a splash of coffee together until it forms a thick paste, similar in texture to beaten egg whites. The rest of the coffee is then mixed with the foam and served to enjoy.
- Celebrate with a Mojito or Daiquiri. When it comes to drinks, Cuba has been a melting pot. It has people wondering what the secret recipe is for cocktails such as the Mojito and the Daiquiri. The island is said to be the birthplace for both drinks. The Mojito recipe combines white rum with sugar and lime, poured over muddled mint leaves, and served in a tall glass, often with a stick of sugarcane with mint leaves to garnish and ice. A very refreshing cocktail! Next, the Mojito’s cousin, the Daiquiri. The basic mix includes lime juice, rum, and sugar. The name of the drink, Daiquirí, also shares its name with a beach and an iron mine located close to Santiago de Cuba. Rum plays a significant role in the Cuban culture. A tour such as the Cuban Rum, Cigars, and Art tour is a great way to understand the history of rum on the island. Both the Mojito and the Daiquirí are quite famous drinks around the globe!
Enjoying the Cuban Culinary Experience
Cooking, for Cubans, is a social and family affair. Every generation inherits recipes, cooking techniques, and secret ingredients for family recipes. One great way to experience what it’s like to prepare food with Cubans when you travel to Cuba while learning some of the tips and tricks behind their most famous recipes, could be through Cuba travel packages, such as How to Make A Cuban Mojito and Ajiaco? Cooking Tour. This tour offers a hands-on guided cooking experience which results in a feast for all to enjoy. You may also try the Mediterraneo Habana: A Farm to Table Tour to get a taste of locally sourced juices, cheeses, and more in their natural place of origin. These and many other curated excursions are offered by the OnCuba Travel agency, which provides services to travel to Cuba from the USA and other international points of departure. They can also help you with the requirements to go to Cuba. Therefore, making the experience easy for the solo traveler or group.
Coming up next in February
In February, Cuba will be hosting its 21st annual Cigar Festival. It’s an exciting time for a Cuba vacation for cigar aficionados and travelers alike. The festival will run from February 26th to March 2nd, 2019. The City of Havana will host the festival. It is a unique event with top quality cigars and experiences. These include the International Fair at Havana’s Convention Palace, tours of cigar factories and plantations, curated cigar tastings, cigar rolling seminars, and previews of new products amongst other highlights. The festival closes with a dinner gala and auction to raise funds for the Cuban Public Health Service.
Global merchants, producers, businesspeople, celebrities and cigar aficionados frequent the event every year. The festival also offers the rare opportunity to try different Habanos produced exclusively for this event. Before returning, you can also stop at cigar shops in Cuba and take some of the world’s most celebrated cigars with you for personal use. Follow our blog to learn more about Cuba’s famous cigars and how you can make the most out of your upcoming visit to the island.
Introducing Tres Lindas Cubanas Cigars
Havana Takeover – Cigar Tour
The ladies of Tres Lindas Cubanas Cigars have partnered with OnCuba Travel to curate a travel experience worthy of the most indulgent cigar aficionado. Join the twins as they embark on an exploration of Cuba’s tobacco region, soak up the sights and sounds of Old Havana, discover treasures inside Cuban cigar shops and factories, sip Cuba’s finest rum, and enjoy the famous authentic Cuban cuisine
Don’t miss this opportunity!
Save the tour date: February 21-25, 2019
***By booking the Cigar & Rum Tour with OnCuba Travel, cigar aficionados will enjoy complete access to The 2019 Habanos Festival for one day.***