The best local dishes in Cuba

Ropa Vieja, photo by TheGirlsNY

All Caribbean cuisines are a mix and match of various influences, come either from the indigenous population, the conquering colonists, or slaves from different parts of Africa. While not all of the history of the Caribbean is a pleasant story thanks to this mix of cultures, the cuisine definitely got the better of it. Cuban cuisine is a mingle of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisine, with even some Chinese touches thrown into the mix in the area around Havana. Cuban cuisine is unique, flavorful and really exciting for the palate, one of the kinds of cuisines that once tasted are never forgotten. When in Cuba, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to acquaint your taste buds with the wonders of national cuisine, but there are a few dishes that you should keep an eye out for especially. Here are some of the best local dishes in Cuba that will take you to foodie nirvana.

Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja is an unappetizing name for an extremely delicious dish – the name means old clothes, probably due to the fact that the main part of the dish looks like a pile of delicious smelling rags. Ropa Vieja is a shredded flank steak in a base of yummy tomato sauce, and some versions are made with a combination of pork, beef and chicken. This meat stew is usually served with yellow rice, black beans, fried plantains and fried yucca.

Boliche

Tamales, photo by rvacapinta

If you are a meat-eater, here’s another very popular Cuban dish for you to try: boliche, a delicious round beef roast stuffed with spicy Cuban chorizo and hard boiled eggs. The meat is slowly simmered in tomato sauce, which gives the dish a mouth-watering savory aroma. The roast is usually served with that Cuban staple, yellow rice.

Tamales

Although tamales are quite common in Mexico and other South American countries, the ones you can get in Cuba are a bit different than the tamales you’re used to. Cuban tamales are made with corn flour and shortening, and choice pieces of corn, and this mixture is wrapped in corn leaves and boiled in the regular way. Tamales en cazuela are the everyday version of tamales, which are cooked directly without being wrapped in leaves.

Medianoche

Cuban Sandwich, photo by David Reber on Flickr

Medianoche is a type of Cuban sandwich that is popular not only in Cuba, but Cuba communities abroad as well. Medianoche means midnight, and the sandwich got its name because it is served in nightclubs late in the night, when people could use a bit after all that drinking and dancing. The bread in the medianoche is a sweet, soft egg-dough rather than regular bread, and the filling is usually a combination of roast pork, ham, mustard, swiss cheese, and dill pickles, all of which is warmed up in a press before serving.

Arroz con Pollo

Cuban chicken rice is one of the most beloved casual dishes in Cuba, and you can find it in fancy restaurant and neighborhood eateries alike. This dish is no simple rice and chicken, because it contains lovely spices and herbs like annatto or saffron. This is not only one of the most popular but also one of the best local dishes in Cuba.

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