Traditional Cuban cuisine is called criollo. The basic ingredients are rice, beans, eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, chicken, beef and pork. Yucca (also known as cassava) and malanga are root vegetables that can be boiled or baked. The most common seasonings are onion and ajo (garlic).
Ajiaco is a stew made with meat, garlic and vegetables. Pork may be served with a garlic sauce called mojo criollo. Congrí is rice cooked with red kidney beans. Rice with black beans is called moros y cristianos, which means “Moors and Christians.” Fufú is made from green bananas that have been boiled and mashed. It is sometimes served with crumbled pork rinds. Fritúra de maíz (corn fritters) are often served at street stalls. Plátanos maduros fritos (fried sweet bananas) may be served as a dessert.
Coffee is usually served strong and sweet. Another favourite drink is guarapo, a clear juice made from sugar cane. Cuba’s national drink is rum, and Cuba is famous for its rum cocktails. The mojito is made with white rum, ice, fresh lime juice, sugar, soda water and fresh mint leaves. The daiquiri consists of white rum, sugar, fresh lime juice and crushed ice.
Small, family-run restaurants called paladares were legalized in 1993, although they were a tradition before that time.
- 2 oz Cuban rum or Bacardi
- 1/2 llime, quartered
- 1-2 tsp superfine sugar
- 3 oz club soda
- 3 sprigs fresh peppermint or spearmint
- a few pieces smashed ice (not crushed)
Squeeze lime into a highball glass, then muddle (bruise) lime wedges, sugar and 2 sprigs of mint with a muddler, or wooden pestle or spoon. Stir well and add rum, preferably Havana Club or, failing that, Bacardi. Add ice, club soda and stir. Garnish with fresh mint.