Cuban Food:

The Tropical Food of Cuba

The East Caribbean island of Cuba enjoys a rich cultural heritage from which has arisen culinary traditions that are as vibrant and varied as the diversity of cultures that have contributed to the development of this distinct and delicious cuisine.

In addition to the ancient influence of the native people of Cuba, the Spaniards brought their own culinary styles, tinged by the Moorish culture who held huge parts of Spain for centuries. The slaves that were brought from Africa made significant culinary and cultural contributions, with other culinary traditions being brought to Cuba with the French colonists fleeing uprisings in Haiti.

As these varied influences came together, a distinctly Cuban flavor and style evolved, which is reminiscent of hand-me-down styles of cooking by oral tradition and eye, rather than relying on specific measurements, and the creation of dishes that tend towards the simple and hearty, and that can be left on their own to simmer.

Difficult, heavy sauces are unusual and deep-frying is just not a favored cooking method. Naturally, the island nation uses a great deal of seafood in its cuisine, which encourages simple cooking techniques and spicing that is meant to enhance, not smother, natural flavors.

The most common spices used in Cuban cuisine are garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves. Sofrito is also popular, and it used in a wide range of dishes, from beans to meats to pastes that are made from a base of tomato sauce. A typical sofrito is derived of green pepper, onion, garlic, oregano and black pepper fried in olive oil until the pepper, onion, and garlic are soft and translucent and the flavors blend to Cuban "perfection."

The dense, nutritious, energy producing vegetables commonly used belie the African and native Cuban influence on the cuisine of the island nation. Yuca, malanga, boniato, and plantains are among these, and are often simmered together with other vegetables and served simply, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped fresh onion -- a satisfying, strengthening, and simple dish for a hard working people.

Meats are often prepared using island flavored marinades of lime juice or a sour juice of the orange as a base. Then the meats are roasted or simmered very slowly with spices, usually for hours. Beans and rice are an essential part of most meals, with black beans being well known as a Cuban staple and specialty.

Cuban cuisine is also renown for its baked goods, which include a variety of turnovers. Some are filled with spiced meats and other types feature a quintessential Cuban blend of cream cheese and guava paste. Flan is one of Cuba's most beloved dessert items.

In Cuban cuisine, the subtle flavors of healthy foods are enhanced by cooking and spicing methods designed to bring out the best in every facet of a dish. Naturally, the culinary traditions of Cuba are a delight to the tongue, but they also offer an intriguing glimpse into a culture that has brought together many varied elements to form a cohesive whole.

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