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Cuban cuisine
is a combination of different cultures, although in its varied dishes, it has a blend of Spanish, African and
Caribbean cuisines, in the preparation and spices. It also has some little, but significant Chinese
influence, which can be found in some areas in Havana. Cuban food is greatly influenced by Indigenous,
African, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic and different Spanish regions.
During the colonial period, Havana was a very important trading port, with many passing immigrants
from Spain, especially, from the Southern part of Spain, such as Andalucía, and even other places, such
as Asturias. Many Cuban dishes have their roots, in Andalucía, Spain.
Cuban cuisine is unique and different from other cultures. Travelers and visitors from other parts of the
world have sometimes associated Cuban cuisine with for example, Mexican cuisine. Although we share
some Spanish traditions, Mexican food is a combination of Spanish and Aztec foods and traditions, while
Cuban cuisine has been heavily influenced by the distinctive history of the Caribbean and their ancient
travelers.
By tradition, Cubans are not used to measure all ingredients when cooking (except for desserts). They
like to add more or less certain amount of spices to their recipes, according to taste or preferences.
However, all meals, whether with more or less spices, have the distinctive seasoning and signature of the
Cuban taste. A traditional Cuban meal consists primarily of rice and beans, which is a typical criollo dish,
but its preparation and technique varies with the region. When rice and beans are cooked together, it is
called: “Arroz Moro”, “Arroz Congrí”, or simply “Congrí. When they are cooked separately, it is called
“Arroz y/con Frijoles” (Rice and/with Beans).
The typical Cuban main course would consist mainly of pork, beef, or chicken, accompanied by grains
(especially rice) or “viandas” (some sort of vegetables). This word “vianda” is not the same as the French
word: viande, which means “meat”. The Cuban word “vianda”, incorporates different types of tubers,
such as boniato (yam or white sweet potato), yucca (cassava), potato, and malanga (taro), as well as
plantains (ripe and unripe), and corn. An additional popular side dish is salad, which usually is simply
composed of lettuce, tomatoes and avocado, but may also have carrots, cucumber, radish, cabbage, and
even beets.
Cuban food tends to be highly seasoned with what is called “sofrito”, a combination of different spices to
make a traditional base sauce for many recipes. The “sofrito” may include tomato, garlic, onion, cumin,
oregano, parsley and olive oil, although the list of the ingredients varies with dishes and recipes.
Cuban cuisine has been changing with the years. After the Cuban revolution of 1959, Cuba’s ties with The
Soviet Union strengthened, making it possible for other food products to enter the island, which were
previously not very common in the traditional Cuban family meal, and making many change their diets,
adapt to the circumstances and be creative with what they had.
Still influenced by different cultures, Cuban cuisine is unique and delicious in its own particular way. Many
have preserved the use of its traditional ingredients and the way to prepare their varied dishes, wherever
they are in the world, while others have added their own touch and cultural background and reference,
but still keeping the unique and distinctive flavor of the traditional Cuban cuisine