6 Cuban Dishes You Have to Try in Florida
By Julie Landry Laviolette
Want to try Cuban food, but don’t know what to order beyond the well-loved standard, the quintessential Cuban sandwich?
Here’s the good news: Cuban chefs have lots of tasty treats up their (guayabera) sleeves.
Let’s go through the basics. It’s as easy as uno, dos, tres.
If you’re not familiar, a Cuban sandwich is made with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on soft Cuban bread. But’s it’s not your average sub. A hot press is used to squish the sandwich, crisping the bread and melting the cheese.
For a twist, try a medianoche, (which means “midnight.”) It has the same fillings, but it’s a little smaller and made on a sweet egg dough bread similar to challah.
Need a snack? Head to a Cuban bakery for bocaditos, tiny deviled ham and cream cheese spread sandwiches on soft dinner rolls. They’re sold by the dozen, so it’s perfect for a group.
Croquetas are crispy breaded and fried appetizers stuffed with a creamy ham or chicken filling.
Don’t let the ropa vieja name fool you. Though the dish’s name literally means “old clothes,” it’s a savory dish of shredded beef cooked down in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers and onions.
Vaca frita, or “fried cow,” is a close cousin, but the beef is marinated in lime and garlic, then seared until crispy.
Not a beef fan? Arroz con pollo is a one-pot meal that pairs chicken with seasoned rice.
Lechon asado is a citrus-marinated roasted pork.
Starchy sides are well loved in Cuban cuisine. Besides traditional black beans and rice, there is a baked, drier mixture of the two called congri.
Yuca, a root vegetable, is a favorite alternative to a potato.
Green plantains, a banana-like fruit that is not as sweet, are flattened and deep-fried into tostones.
Ripe plantains are slow-fried until they are carmelized to make a sweeter version called maduros.
There’s plenty to satisfy a sweet touch at a Cuban eatery. Sink your teeth into a pastelito, a baked puff pastry stuffed with sweet or savory fillings, such as guava and cream cheese.
Try Tres Leches, a cake soaked in three kinds of milk – evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream – or swoon over a delicate flan, an egg custard drenched in caramel.
Get your morning jolt with Cuban coffee, a strong espresso with a hearty helping of sugar. Order a cafecito or café Cubano for a shot in a demitasse cup.
If you don’t want to start with the strong stuff, ask for a café con leche, which is served with milk.
Soda lovers will want to try herb-based Materva, or satisfy the sweet tooth with Jupina, a tropical pineapple soda or Ironbeer soda, a fruitier, Dr. Pepper-like drink.