Cuban Cuisine

During colonial times, Cuba was an important trade port. Hence, Cuban cuisine today, especially in terms of spice and flavor, is a blend of African, Spanish, French, Italian, Haitian, and other Caribbean cuisines. A small, but important Chinese influence is also present around the Havana area. And since Cuba is an island, seafood has also had a great influence upon Cuban cuisine. Additionally, due to its tropical climate, many fruits and root vegetables are used in Cuban cooking. A typical Cuban meal consists of rice and beans. When cooked together, the recipe is called Moros y Cristianos (“Moors and Christians”), and if cooked separately, it is known as arroz y frijoles (“rice and beans”).

Perhaps the most popular Cuban food in the West is the Cuban sandwich (also known as a mixto in Cuba), which grew out of the once-open flow of cigar workers between Cuba and Florida, specifically Key West and Ybor City (a neighborhood of Tampa), during the late 19th century. The sandwich, built on a base of lightly buttered Cuban bread, contains sliced roast pork, thinly sliced Serrano ham, Swiss cheese,  dill pickles, and yellow mustard. However, in Tampa, Genoa salami is traditionally layered in with the other meats, probably due to influence of Italian  immigrants who lived side-by-side with Cubans and Spaniards in Ybor. Tomatoes and lettuce are also common Americanized additions. After assembly, the sandwich is usually pressed in a groove-less panini-type grill known as a plancha, which both heats and compresses the contents.

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