Our delicious destination this issue is a country in the Caribbean Sea, Cuba. The cuisine here is a fusion of Spanish, African, Caribbean, and Native American Taino food. A typical Cuban meal consists of rice and beans, which can be cooked either together or apart.
Perhaps one of their most famous foods is the Cuban sandwich, also called mixto. It is a quite popular dish, especially for those that cannot stop for a full lunch. Its origins come all the way from 1800s, where Cuban and Floridian workers exchanged the food, which had then spread to Cuban American communities in the United States. It is made from two buttered Cuban bread buns, which are lightly buttered. Then comes the stuffing, which comprises of sliced roast pork, thinly sliced Serrano ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and mustard. Sometimes, especially in the US, you will also see tomatoes and lettuce, but they are mostly an Americanization. Almost identical to the Cuban sandwich is Medianoche, which only differs in bread. In this dish, the bread is made from sweet egg dough.
One of the national dishes of Cuba, ropa vieja is made from shredded or pulled stewed beef with vegetables, most notably black beans, yellow rice, plantains, and fried yucca. Another Cuban national dish is Moros y Cristianos, which you can find practically everywhere in the country. 'Moros' here refers to the black beans and 'Cristianos' to white rice. It is a side dish given with many different main courses that never goes out of style.
For those with more of a sweet tooth, your answer is Torticas de Moron, a traditional Cuban dessert. It is a sugary pastry made from cookie dough made with lard or vegetable shortening. It is very crunchy and tastes as a mix of rum, lime, and vanilla.
As for the drinks, Cuba is famous for its Café Cubano, a Cuban espresso; an alcoholic beverage Cuba Libre, made from rum, Coca-Cola, sugar, and lime; Mojito, which contains rum, mint, sugar, lime, and club soda; and pineapple soda called Jupina.
Virgin (non-alcoholic) Mojito Recipe
- mash the brown sugar with half of the mint leaves
- add a splash of apple juice as you mash it
- pour the rest of the apple juice, lemonade or ginger ale, rest of the mint, and the juice of a half of the lime in the glass of ice
- very gently stir
- add 2 lime wedges when serving
Welcome to my next series of articles, which will examine foods and drinks from all around the world. Our first stop is Algeria. Their cuisine comes from all walks of life, but most notably Berber, Andalusian, Arabic, French, and Ottoman.
With a big country such as Algeria, you of course do not have a single type of cuisine that pertains to everyone. Each region of the country has its own famous examples. However, many of the dishes are centered on fresh vegetables and herbs, bread, olive oil, and meat (lamb, beef and poultry). Spices are a staple in the Algerian cooking, most notably ginger, cumin, garlic, saffron, coriander, parsley, mint, and cinnamon.
Perhaps the most famous Algerian dish is couscous, which many people mistaken for grain, me included. However, couscous is actually pasta. The dough for pasta is a mixture of water and semolina wheat, which is then crumbled through a sieve, which creates tiny grain-like pellets. Couscous is not normally eaten as a separate dish, but rather with different meats, such as lamb, chicken or fish, and cooked vegetables like carrots, chickpeas and tomatoes. It is also eaten with stews. As you can see, couscous is a very versatile dish, since it can also be used in desserts by adding sweet ingredients.
When an event is held, which will draw in a lot of people, a typical dish to prepare is Mechoui, a whole lamb roasted on an outdoor spit. It has a crispy skin and tender meat inside, which is the result of an herb butter seasoning. Mechoui is eaten with an assortment of dried fruits and vegetables, such as dates.
Although not a dish, mint tea is very popular in Algeria, as is in many North African countries. They especially like serving it to their guests as it is quite easy to make: you just need water, green tea, mint leaves, and, if you wish, sugar. First, boil the water and put one and a half tablespoons of tea in a separate teapot. Then put the boiling water in the teapot with tea and immediately pour it out again to wash the leaves. Then add sugar and mint leaves, pouring the boiling water in again, but not all the way to the top. Stir well and serve it still boiling hot.
Algeria certainly has an interesting cultural mix when it comes to cuisine: a blend of Arab, African, and Mediterranean dishes. Join us next time on another delicious destination.