Since Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations in July 2015 and flights are resuming this year, it will be the first time Americans will land in Cuba in more than half a century. This is great news!
We thought with the inevetible increase in travel to this once forbidden island, we should brush up on our knowledge of what it’s like to eat in Havana, Cuba.
Restaurants in Havana are Growing
Traditionally, it is popular to eat in paladares, which are unofficial restaurants in private homes. However, these are not endorsed by the government and not very reliable because they open and close (voluntarily or otherwise) frequently.
In just the last few years Havana has experienced a growth in restaurants. This is, in part, due to an easing of government regulations, making it easier to source quality ingredients and allowing chefs to build their paladares into legitimate restaurants.
Another great thing about eating in Cuba is that food is cheap–real cheap!
Frijoles Negros (black beans)
You may see this dish referred to as moros y cristianos, which literally means Moors and Christians. Almost every meal you order will come with a big bowl of black beans and white rice. The beans are typically seasoned with salt, garlic, cumin and oregano. They are cooked with ham hocks and onions to add flavor. It’s like the U.S. version of “do you want fries with that?”–but much healthier.
No, you aren’t eating someone’s boiled pants–it’s just a cute name for a very tasty dish. This is one of the few dishes made with beef in Cuba (pork and chicken being the predominate meats). It is shredded beef simmered until it falls apart (hence the “old clothes”). It is cooked in a tomato-based sauce with green peppers and onions.
Boliche is the Cuban version of a pot roast. It starts with a round beef roast and is stuffed with chorizo sausages and browned in olive oil. The roast is typically simmered in water with onions. It is usually served with white rice and tostones.
Tostones are twice fried plantains. They are smashed and shaped into little cakes and then deep fried. Plantains are a member of the banana family but they have to be cooked before serving because they are not edible raw, like a banana.
Mariquitas (Plantain Chips)
Cuban’s don’t really eat potato chips, so this is their go-t0 snack food. Mariquitas are made from plantains and are like dried banana chips but less sweet. Some of the best chips are prepared fresh and served hot at walk-up windows (“ventanitas”) and cafes.
Now you know…
Now you know a few traditional Cuban dishes to try in Havana. Now check out Where to Eat in Havana.
One more thing…
While you are off visiting the once forbidden island and trying Cuban food, we hope you are being careful. But accidents do happen and if you get hurt or sick you will want to get back home. Do you have a plan to afford medical transport home if you need it?