Love that Latin Cuisine
Cuban and Puerto Rican flavors spice up the melting pot.
It’s time to think outside the burrito! There is much more to Latin cuisine
than our favorite Mexican food items -- not that there’s anything wrong with
loving Mexican cuisine!
Depending on where in the United States you live, you might think of a
different country when you hear the term "Latin cuisine." That might
mean Mexican food for a resident of the West Coast, Cuban cuisine for a
Miamian, or Puerto Rican fare for someone from New York or Chicago.
"Latin America" comprises countries developed from colonies of
European powers that used languages derived from Latin -- namely Spanish,
Portuguese, and French, according to the Encarta encyclopedia. But the Latin
cultures that have had perhaps the biggest presence in the U.S. to date are
Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Since Mexican cuisine is fairly well known,
let’s take a moment to explore the other two.
The Indians living on the island now called Cuba lived on fish, cassava (a
starchy tuber), corn, beans, sweet potatoes, yuca (a potato-like vegetable),
tomatoes, and pineapples. The year 1492 brought Christopher Columbus to Cuba.
He claimed the island for Spain, and Cuba was a Spanish territory for several
centuries. By the 17th century Cuba began importing Africans to the island to
work as slaves.
Foods from the regions of Spain (Canarian, Galician, and Asturian) that
helped populate Cuba, along with those of the Indians and African and Chinese
slaves, helped shape today's Cuban cuisine.
"Cuban cooking combines the tastes of Spain with the tropical flavors of
the Caribbean," Glenn Lindgren, co-author of Three Guys from Miami
Celebrate Cuban, says in an email interview. "Throw in some New World
spices and ingredients and a strong African influence, and you have the essence
of Cuban cookery."
One thing Cuban food is not is spicy hot, adds Jorge Castillo, another
co-author of Three Guys From Miami Celebrate Cuban: "We Cubans
just don't use the hot peppers that are such an integral part of many Latin
That's not to say Cuban food is not highly spiced.
"The heart and soul of Cuban cuisine is the "sofrito," a saute
of onions, green peppers, and garlic in olive oil," Lindgren says.
Cuban cuisine is also based on the flavor of citrus, according to Raul
Musibay, the third co-author of the Guys from Miami Cuban
"We use tangy orange juice with crushed garlic, black pepper, and
oregano to create mojo, a garlic/citrus marinade that adds a distinctive Cuban
flavor to many meats -- especially roasted pork, which is probably the most
popular meat for Cuban-Americans," says Musibay.
Everyone knows a Cuban party is not complete without roast pork, black
beans, white rice, fried plantains and yuca with oil and garlic, Lindgren