When visiting Cuba every tourist expects to taste a lot of еcsotic fruits, and tropical and seafood specialties. The situation is a bit different, though. Although for the last couple of years /2013-2017/ there is a big diversity in food in private restaurants in general, Cuban food is quite simple but very delicious. And here is why!
Traditional Cuban food is called Comida Criolla.
The main ingredients of Cuban food are rice and beans /congri/ with baked chicken or pork.
Bananas for cooking /platano/ or root crops such as yucca, boniato /sweet potato/ are used as a garnish, which resembles chips. The main meal is often offered with salad – tomatoes, other vegetables, and lettuce or grated cabbage. My tourists usually like the meat very much and describe it as delicious and qualitative. A traditional sauce in Cuba is called potaje. It resembles a thick bean soup with onions, peppers, and garlic. The sauce is spilled on the rice.
Despite being a sea country Cuba is not that rich in fish since fishing in Cuba is not well-developed and the waters around the island are warm so there isn’t much fish. Even if there is some catch it is usually sent mainly to resorts such as Varaderо and Cayo Largо.
The specialty in Cuba is the langosta lobster. Its tail can be grilled, chipped, or stuffed with cheese, and ham… You can try it mainly in private restaurants.
In many private restaurants, you will be offered a red snapper, swordfish, and others. You can find shrimps anywhere, they are often served on a plate with garlic sauce. Octopus can be found in 2-3 places in Havanа. If you want fresh fish you can come fishing with me or wake up early 6 – 8 am and buy some of the fishermen’s catch. In many of the guesthouses, I work with and in several restaurants, you can try cangrejo – a grilled crab. It is served with rice and vegetables. The crab can be whole or minced.
As I already mentioned chicken and pork in Cuba are very delicious. They are served mainly fried, often stuffed with cheese and ham. Rabbit meat is served in very few restaurants. Veal is very hard to find since Cuban law forbids butchering cows and oxen. Many Cubans even joked in front of me that if they killed a cow they would lie in prison more than if they had killed a man. This is the Cuban reality! Only state restaurants serve beef. A popular specialty is the beefsteak or pork steak stuffed with cheese and ham.
Another popular meal is ropa vieja /an old garment/. It is made from beef /very seldom from lamb/. It is called this way since the meat is cut in strips, some tomato sauce, veal bouillon, peppers, onions, cumin, garlic, and others. In the end, the meal resembles an old garment, but it is quite delicious. It is served with rice and/or beans or fried banana.
If now /2017/ you open a pastry shop in Cuba you will be a millionaire since even though Cuba is among the world leaders in sugar production Cuban desserts are quite simple. They are mostly cakes, sponge cakes, and guava biscuits.
I pretty much like the guava sweet bars.
Another typical dessert is cheese with guava jam.
As a sweet-lover, I have studied all of them. The tartlet is another special Cuban dessert. Here it is filled with guava, banana, or coconut. On the streets you will find the well-known churros – fried pastry sweets served with chocolate jam or caramel. You can also try the Cuban version of creme caramel – flan. Torrijos is something like fried slices of bread in eggs. They are soaked in sweet sauce.
A pastry with guava jam
Ice cream is something like a national religion in Cuba. The popular state ice cream brand Copelia can be found in any big city. After standing in queue for 2-3 hours you will be able to have two balls of ice cream almost for free. You can also find it in smaller ice cream shops. The Cuban ice cream is made mostly from mango, guava, cream, and banana. The ice cream is made from real milk! Unfortunately, soon this might not be the case because since 2015 the Nestle brand has entered Cuba.
The eating habits of Cubans differ in the Oriental /Eastern Cuba/ and Western Cuba /Occidental/. Around Havanа there are mostly pastries, potatoes, tomatoes, rice and beans, pork, and chicken.
Piruli – the Cuban sugar rooster is made from sugar, caramel, and crushed peanuts.
The breakfast served for tourists in the guesthouses in Cuba usually includes bread, some sausage, two fried or boiled eggs, season fruits, delicious coffee, and tea. The Cuban usually has a sandwich for breakfast – a bun with a pork steak.
The Cuban bread is made from corn meal and has a yellowish colour. When it is fresh it is as soft as cotton. In Cuba, you may also buy a baguette. Maybe because of the climate in Cuba, wheat is not cultivated here, but rather it is imported from Russia and Canada.
Here are some more of my articles for Cuban food:
- Fruits and vegetables in Cuba
- Alcohol and cigars in Cuba
- Pocket money in Cuba
- Typical Cuban recipes by Mariela Nordel
Check out the most detailed travel notes about Cuba from its every spot: