If we talk of Cuban cuisine, then we are talking about fusion cuisine: the fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean dishes. Later on elements of Asian cuisine were added, towards the end of the 19th century, when the Chinese came to live in Cuba. The Spanish brought rice, lemons, oranges, beef cattle and horses with them. African slaves added food from their own land to what the Spanish gave, such as the yam and the okra, together with vegetables from Cuba, unknown in Europe, such as manioc, the pumpkin, tomatoes and corn. All these different elements were later blended and gave rise to this typical and original cuisine.
The typical Creole cuisine was differentiated from the Spanish in the 19th century, so much so that it acquired its own characteristics, like certain stews exemplified by chicken with rice, rice with black beans (also known as “Moros y Cristianos” or Moorish rice), congri oriental (rice with kidney beans) which represent the most typical dishes in Cuban cuisine. Rice is present in all Cuban dishes and there are numerous ways of preparing it; white or normal, with beans mixed with meat, vegetables or seafood.
If there is one thing that distinguishes Cuban cuisine, that is the taste. The dishes should be well seasoned and marinated. Cubans like their food well done, well cooked. They marinade their meat with lemons or bitter oranges, onion, garlic and pepper.
The national dish par excellence in Cuba is Ajiaco Criollo, a mixture of various kinds of meat and vegetables all cooked together. It varies according to the seasoning and diversity of ingredients used in making it. The most frequent are: manioc, coco yam, pumpkin, sweet potato, potatoes, green and ripe bananas, corn and pieces of dry salt meat.
Tamal is another traditional dish consisting of semi-boiled tender ground corn dough with meat inside. It is wrapped in the cob leaves or banana leaves, which are then boiled in water and/or baked in the oven. This is a traditional dish in Cuba, served as an aperitif, savoury snack or main dish.
Apart from these dishes, we could highlight ropa vieja (braised beef), aporreado de carnes (Cuban meat stew) and budín de pan (bread pudding). As a side dish, a nice avocado, tropical fruit or chicken salad and for dessert, torrejas en almíbar (fried bread in syrup) or fried ripe bananas. Wash all of this down with plenty of beer, and for the after meal chat a coffee and cocktail like a mojito, cuba libre or daiquiri, always with rum as the main ingredient.