Havana Feature


Cuban Cuisine

Carne de cerdo or puerco (pork) and pollo (chicken) dishes are common, with res (beef), pargo (snapper), cherna (grouper), camarones (shrimp), and langosta (lobster) close behind. In the paladares, which can't legally serve beef and lobster, look for conejo (rabbit), cordero (lamb), and cangrejo (crab). Bananas, plantains, and viandas (tubers) such as potatoes, yams, and yucca (also known as cassava or manioc) are staples.

Standard criollo (creole) dishes include frijoles negros con arroz (black beans with rice); pollo asado en salsa criolla (grilled in a sauce of tomato, onion, and ají—a hot, red pepper); pierna de puerco asado en su jugo (roast leg of pork in its own gravy); aporreado de res, aporreado de tasajo, or ropa vieja (different names for shredded beef in salsa criollo); enchilado de langosta (stewed in peppers, tomato, onions, and garlic); langosta a la mariposa (grilled and served with lemon); frituras de malanga (crisp, fried wedges of a tuber that tastes like a tangy potato); and yuca con mojo (cassava in salsa criolla).

There are seemingly endless ways to prepare plantains in Cuba, among them chicharrones de plátano (finely sliced and salted plantain chips, also known as mariquitas); tostones (fried chunks of green plantain); and plátanos a puñetazos (literally, "punched plantains"; banana or plantain half cooked, taken out, placed under a cloth and hammered flat with a fist before being placed back in the pan to finish browning). Keep your eyes peeled for typical criollo desserts such as casco de guayaba (guava paste) or mermelada de mango (mango marmalade), both served con queso (with cheese).

Wine is increasingly available as proper storage at stable temperatures improves. Vintage Riojas and Ribera de Duero wines show up from time to time, though the price of good wine (20–25 cuc) compared to a 1-convertible peso bottle of local beer is a factor difficult not to keep in mind. Torres wines from Catalonia's Penedès region and from Chile are also frequently available. Mojitos (light rum, sugar, mint, lemon juice, and club soda) and daiquirís (blended light rum, lime, sugar, and crushed ice) are Cuba's most famous rum drinks. Cuban beer includes the standard light lager, Cristal; the slightly more full-bodied Lagarto; the still darker Bucanero (which also comes in a light version); and the darkest brews of all, Hatuey and Mayabe.

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