The hotel that we stayed in had some lovely restaurants which delicious food. We also found a very good sea food restaurant right on the beach. It was lovely to go there and listen to the sound of the waves and watch the sunset whilst eating a delicious meal and enjoying a glass of wine.
Traditionally there has been little variety in Cuban cuisine, which revolves around a basic diet of chicken and pork dishes accompanied by rice and beans. In Cuba this is generally known as Comida Criolla. There are a couple of national dishes that are worth trying in Cuba. Ropa Vieja is a type of meat stew normally made from lamb or beef. It is prepared over a slow heat with green peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. I tried this in a small restaurant in Varadero and it was very nice.
Often found on street stalls, Tamales are prepared from cornmeal, peppers and onions. They are then wrapped in the outer leaves of the cornmeal plant and steamed until soft. They are somewhat bland but are often served with a red pepper sauce to make them a little more lively. Rice and beans invariably accompany most Cuban meals. They come in two main guises, Congris and Arroz con Frijoles. Congris is where the rice and beans are served together whereas Arroz con Frojoles is where white rice is served with a separate bowl of beans which have been cooked into a delicious soupy stew. Other tradional accompaniments to meals are fried plantain, mashed, boiled or fried green bananas which have a buttery almost nutty taste, cassava and simple salads of tomatoes, cucumber and avocado.
Paladares are popular in Cuba. They are privately run usually in the spare room of a house. They were introduced by the state in response to Cubans wanting to earn money through private enterprise. They offer visitors a chance to try Cuban home cooking. Although there are tight restrictions on what can be served, the meals that we tried were generous and well cooked.
If you like rum then you will get on well in Cuba. The national drink is available almost everywhere and can be used in some delicious cocktails. One of the most famous in Cuba and my favourite was the mojito. Ernest Hemingway is reported to have enjoyed a mojito at the La Bodeguita del Medio bar in Havana. I bought a bottle of rum home with me so that I could recreate a mojito when I got back. Although its not quite as nice as sipping one on the beach in Cuba, they are very nice. Here is a recipe if you would like to try one.
- 8-12 fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon of caster sugar or 2 tablespoons of sugar syrup
- light rum
- half a lime, sliced
- sparkling water
- ice cubes
- sprig of mint and a lime wedge to garnish
In a tall glass gently crush the mint leaves and the lime with the end of a wooden spoon or a muddler if you have one. Add the sugar and a handful of ice cubes. Add a good dash of rum making it as strong as you like it. Fill the glass with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of mint and a wedge of lime. Enjoy.