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tips for experiencing the life and culture of this unique island nation  


Cuban Food

introduction *  when to go * things to do * events * getting there * getting around * food * history * attractions * music * cities * hotels

Though not as varied and well renowned as cuisine in some other Caribbean countries, Cuban food can be a highlight of any trip to Cuba. Cuban cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in North America, and many major U.S. cities now boast a Cuban restaurant or two — evidence that Cuban dishes have something to offer the American palate.

Most Cuban dishes are comprised of fried chicken or pork accompanied by rice and beans. Other meats, such as lamb, beef, and goat, are also popular. For an island nation, Cuba has a surprising lack of quality seafood, though you will find some good fish and lobster dishes on the menu of the average Cuban restaurant.

The best of all Cuban dishes is probably ropa veija, a delicious meat stew found in almost every Cuban restaurant. Ropa veija generally consists of slow-cooked lamb or beef, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Other popular Cuban dishes include cornmeal tamales, maize fritters, and pan con pasta (bread with a garlic mayonnaise filling), all of which served in restaurants and at street stands. The traditional Cuban food for special events is a roast sucking pig, or lechon.

There are several types of Cuban restaurants. Hotel restaurants are always a good choice for dining in Cuba. Even if you are not staying at one of the luxury Cuban resorts or hotels, you can still make use of their restaurants. Generally these will serve a combination of American and Cuban cuisine. State-run restaurants vary widely in food quality. The dollar-only restaurants are likely to have better food. Many Cuban cafes are heavily influenced by American fast food and pizza is as common on menus as any Cuban dishes. A popular and tasty Cuban food is a pork and pickle sandwich, a surprisingly light and tasty combination.

The paladere is a unique type of Cuban restaurant. Similar to a casa particular (in which you stay in the home of a Cuban family), a paladere is an independent dining establishment run out of the home of a Cuban family. These places are often the best bet for traditional Cuban cuisine and may be a good choice for vegetarians. Paladeres are common in bigger towns like Havana or Santiago de Cuba, but may be hard to find in less developed areas.

As a rule, Cuban food is light on vegetables and fruits. Meat is seen as an essential part of any meal. Nevertheless, you can find some great fresh fruit and vegetables at the markets, or agromercado, common in most Cuban towns.

Prices at the average Cuban restaurant are still quite cheap by Western standards, although tourists are frequent targets of overcharging. It is always a good idea to ask for an itemized bill and to query any inconsistent charges. Expect to pay about $10 a person for a full meal.

Cuban food may not be as well known as cuisine in Jamaica or some other nearby islands, but an exploration of traditional Cuban cuisine is still an essential part of any vacation to Cuba.

Order delicious Cuban pastries online at www.pastelitostogo.com or check out this great link for Cuban recipes: www.tasteofcuba.com.

OVERVIEW for your visit to Cuba:

introduction *  when to go * things to do * events * getting there * getting around * food * history * attractions * music * cities * hotels