Although Cuban gastronomy is not exactly haute cuisine, the food served in restaurants, paladars and casas particulares nationwide generally contains fresh ingredients with authentic flavours (there is no GMO!), and is simple but tasty.
A fusion of diverse culinary influences ranging from those of the native Taino inhabitants, Spanish and French colonists to those of imported African slaves and other Caribbean nations, results in a unique tropical blend.
A typical meal would consist of fish, seafood, pork or chicken combined with a number of side dishes.
The Cuban signature (side) dish is rice with black beans. The dish has different names depending on whether these two ingredients are cooked together or apart. When cooked together, it is called either “Congri” or “Moros y Cristianos” (Eng. Moors and Christians). If cooked separately, the dish is called “Arroz con Frijoles”.
Meat and fish are usually served in light sauces, based on sofrito (sautéed onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes, seasoned with cumin and oregano). One of the most popular sauces, used to accompany meat, fish and vegetables is Mojo, made with oil, garlic, onion, spices such as oregano and bitter orange or lime juice.
Another popular dish worth tasting is Ropa vieja (Eng. rags) – shredded beef slow-cooked in tomato-based criollo sauce, which very much looks like a bundle of old clothes. Both the Mojo sauce and Ropa vieja originate from the Canary Islands.
Roast lovers may want to try Boliche – a slow-cooked beef or pork roast, stuffed with a sausage and hard boiled eggs.
Apart from rice and beans, other common side dishes include root vegetable fritters or chips. These are mainly made of plantains, yucca or malanga. Potatoes are not typical in Cuban cuisine.
Traditional Cuban desserts include flan, rice pudding, guava marmalade and different kinds of sponge cake.
In general, Cuban eateries are not expensive. One can have a vegetarian dish for as little as 6 CUC and a lobster dish for up to 15 CUC. The meal price usually includes side dishes and salads.