Getting a Taste of Cuba

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Cuban Cuisine History

Cuban culture is a mix between European sophistication and African soul. The current racial mix of the Cuban population also shares these qualities.

When the Spanish took control of the island hundreds of years ago, they brought with them their love for food native to Spain. The first African slaves arrived in the 1700s. While they probably did not have the right to go shopping for their favorite African ingredients, the increasingly large population of modern day, post abolition Africans have kept up their strong cooking traditions. Both of these main cuisines are supplemented by herbs and spices found throughout Caribbean food. Naturally, since Cuba is an island, seafood is a main ingredient in all variations of its food, from large meals to light snacks. Also, the tropical climate allows a wide range of fruits and vegetables to be grown.

Typical Cuban Meals

What a common Cuban might eat on any given day is quite different from the probable choice of a Mexican or an Argentinean. Most Cuban meals consist of beans and rice with a portion of meat. Additionally, some sort of side dish would be served, like bananas, yuca, or plantains. It is possible that fresh fruit would be served as well, but it is not always the case. After the meal is eaten, dessert is served.

cuban pastries

Portos Cuban bakery, Burbank, California

Cuban Desserts

There is a wide range of desserts and sweets, originating from Spain, Africa, and the Caribbean. The desserts here feature some of the same ingredients found in the main dishes, so adventurous cooks can make everything at the same time.

Among the most popular dishes are arroz con leche, pastries, boniatillo, and flan. Looking at a few in more detail will allow readers to try out some recipes on their own.

Cuban Flan Recipe

This may be the most popular dessert found on the island. While this is not strictly a local food, the Cuban variety is distinct in its flavors and preparation. Well-loved in many countries, this classic sweet is made of sugar, evaporated milk, condensed milk, egg yolks, eggs, cream cheese, and vanilla extract. Optional ingredients include cinnamon, butter, lime, sherry, and water. Here is a sample of a Cuban flan recipe to try.

After preheating an oven to around 350 degrees and choosing a pan (a medium-sized pan is fine) to cook the flan in, fill a larger, more shallow pan with water.

Next, get a saucepan and put in 1 cup of sugar, letting it turn brown by caramelizing.

Put the finished caramel into the bottom of the flan pan and place the whole thing into the prepared shallow pan filled with water.

Prepare a blender and add the following:

1 can of condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk
1 egg
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 ounces of cream cheese
a sprinkle of cinnamon 

After blending the ingredients together, pour this into the flan pan that has the caramel at the bottom.

Next, be careful and pour boiling water into the large shallow pan, so that the water level sits around the halfway mark on the flan pan.

Cover the flan pan with aluminum foil and let it cook in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Remove the flan pan from the shallow water pan and it sit in a refrigerator overnight.

Cuban pastries Havana

Cuban pastries Obispo street Havana

Cuban pastries

These delicious desserts are a puff-like food filled with ingredients that are sweet or savory. On the island, common fillers are pineapple, guava, cheese, coconut, cream cheese, and fruit pulps. These can be eaten as snacks alone, or with an accompanying cup of coffee. Due to the popularity of this food, it is now being manufactured and sold in supermarkets in the western hemisphere. Cuban pastries in Havana Cuba.

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