Cuban food

A little back history, a good friend of mine is from Cuba, pre Castro. His family fled first to spain then to the US.

Every now and then he talks about the food from his youth. Mexican he can live with, Puerto Rican, he seems to like better.

Now I make a mean pot of chili, but I realize that it’s about as Cuban as a lasagne.

My wife decided that the best gift we could give this year to his wife was a Cuban cook book.

This book would have to be available online and would have to be authentic.

There must be a couple of pre Castro Cubans on board, but if not I will take recomendations from someone who has lived closely with these people and loves their food.

Thanks in advance.

Cuban food is a derivation of Spanish food (and is nothing like most Mexican food you know). I know that there are some cookbooks from my area (Tampa Bay) that will have a heavy Cuban influence. Tampa was built on the backs of Cuban immigrants sometime ago, and though we don’t have as many recent immigrants as Miami it has a strong Cuban culinary influence. Ditto Miami.

(the last has links to other Cuban related websites)

Here’s part of the menu for Versailles, a Cuban restaurant I enjoyed when I lived here before. (Actually I never ate in the restaurant; I lived a couple of blocks away from one, and I just took the food home.) I liked the roast pork, which is marinated in a citrus marinade. Three years ago it came with white rice and black beans. Now they’re offering a choice between rice and beans or moro.

My husband’s dad was from Cuba…came here before Castro. This is the book we use the most, and it is pretty authentic, from all reports.

Memories of a Cuban Kitchen

This book has the most important recipes…the classic Cuban Christmas Eve dinner, roast pork, black beans & rice, and yuca root with garlic sauce. That meal will bring back memories, as EVERY Cuban family has it every Christmas.

Oh, and I don’t know if your friend has heard of or has access to some of the Goya products you can get in the supermarket (we live where there is a pretty significant Hispanic population, so our stores are well-stocked with it). But there is a Goya product that is a pretty good facsimile of the typical Cuban marinade. My FIL used to use it all the time for an easy “taste of home,” and made sure we always had a bottle in the fridge, too. It’s the one called Mojo Criollo in this link.

Food of the gods, Sarafeena. A guy I work with is from Tampa and comes up every three months. On his turn to cook he made pork with Mojo, yellow rice and black beans. Best stuff ever. I ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days.

I know! I never had it in my life until I met my husband, and what a gift it was (he’s ok for other reasons, too!) There usually aren’t too many of us at my house for Christmas Eve dinner, but we always make the biggest pork roast we can find, to be sure of a lot of leftovers. We use the pork to make Cuban sandwiches. Mmmmm…

Fantastic! I knew I could count on the Dope for this.

Oh and that yellow rice and beans, a buddy of his visited a few years back and I got to try some, never knew the name but I will have to agree about it’s godly status.


What’s the matter with you people?! Don’t you know that the SOLE reason that Castro keeps such a lockdown on his people is to keep Cuban food a secret?! You people are all letting the cat out of the bag!

Anyways. I will say this: Mojo sauce is unbelievable. It should be put on everything from tacos to hamburgers to ice cream to salads. School children should be required to drink a cup of it each morning in home room.

Oh, and Johnny? Versailles is incredible. Great recommendation for Dopers who find themselves in the City of Angels.

Like this one, the Columbia Restaurant Cookbook. For the home viewers, the Columbia is a Tampa institution of Cuban / Spanish food, and the cookbook is awesome. This book includes a lot of history, of Tampa, of Ybor, and of the family who founded the Columbia itself, and the recipes are great too.

As far as the mojo criollo, if you can’t buy it it’s pretty easy to make – garlic, sour orange juice, sweet orange juice, lemon juice and lime juice are the 5 ingredients, and the taste it lends to whatever you marinate in it is fantastic. The Goya brand isn’t bad, but there’s another brand we get in the grocery stores around here I like better. I can’t remember the brand offhand, but I’ll look when I’m at work today.

And now I’m hungry for Cuban and I work nights the rest of the week – now I have to wait til Sunday.

Bambi, glad you chimed in…I would love to know the name of that other brand. And where do you get the sour orange juice? So many of the recipies call for it, but I don’t know where to get it.


You can buy sour orange juice at most supermarkets throughout Florida (I’m from Miami and currently live in Orlando). It’s in the Hispanic foods section right next to the mojo criollo marinades, of which there are several different varieties. I’ve bought Goya, Iberia, I’ve even bought the Publix brand, and they’re all pretty good in my opinion. If you want, I could always ship you some if you’d pay me back!

I am in Chicago…I wonder if it is in our supermarkets and I just haven’t seen it! I will look a little closer next to the Mojo next time. If not, I may just take you up on your offer! :slight_smile:

Maybe, maybe not. I know (like you said earlier) that Chicago’s Hispanics are largely Mexican in heritage; Mexican food carries less influence from Spain than does Cuban, so the sour OJ might not be available. When I first read you asking me where to get it, my first thought was “Um, the grocery store?”, but I forget that not everywhere is so Caribbean-influenced.

The mojo I like is Conchita brand, but like BBVL said, they’re all pretty good. The Publix is nice because you can get it in a gallon jug – if you’re using a lot of it, that’s the most value for ya. But you can’t get it in Chicago.

Also, BBVL, you might be surprised if you went about 100 miles north of where you are now. You’d be shocked at the cultural differences, and I’d be shocked to find sour OJ on the shelves. I spent my last year traveling throughout Florida for work, and I was very, very surprised at how really different the different regions are. I spent one week 60 miles from home and I didn’t meet a single Spanish speaker; I spent the next week 60 miles from home a different way, and it was about 50-50 Hispanic / non.

This is the exact book I came in here to recommend. Don’t hesitate–buy it! You will not be disappointed. I have also found a lot of good recipes in Three Guys from Miami Cook Cuban.

Enjoy! (Now I’m going to have to go back home and eat all of the leftover ropa vieja, before someone else gets to it…)

Sarahfeena, I see you are from Chicago–have you ever eaten at Cafe 21?

Gonna poke my head in here one more time to thank you guys.

I had no idea there was such a wealth of good Cuban cooking guides available, really, it boggles my mind. My google search was fruitless. I thought I might get one or two replies.

Now my wife is torn, so many good recomendations. She’s leaning towards the three guys one.

Best thing about all this is I will surely be invited over to tase the results.

Again, thanks.

i used to live down the block from a homey Cuban restaurant when i was in college, called the “IDEAL” restaurant, which in many ways it was (although it was pronounced “Eee-dee-Ahll”)–unfortunately for you (and fortunately for me) I only ever ordered one dish, because it was, well, ideal. “Ropa Vieja,” which (my Cuban roommate explained to me) meant “old clothes.” It was some kind of super-cooked meat, with spices that were heavenly. Does anyone know a good recipe for this dish?

Yeah, Florida is pretty weird. I’ve only ever lived in Miami, Gainesville (for college), and Casselberry/Orlando, and there are enough Hispanics in all those cities for Publix to stock a nice variety of Cuban and other Hispanic foods. Even Albertson’s has a nice little section for that stuff.

OK, living in the coal region of PA, I can say that I am not exposed to a lot of ethnic foods (other than European, and Americanized Asian). But this mojo sauce of which you all speak has me very very curious. Damn shame I won’t find it anywhere near me…

Anyone want to share a recipe for the mojo pork roast with yellow rice and black beans? I think my hubby might enjoy something like that for a change.

No, I don’t think we’ve been there…where is it located? I would love to try it. We used to go to a place called Tanya’s, which is unfortunately closed now…my FIL liked it a lot. We would love to find a new place to go, so if you see this post, let me know where it is and we will try it!

I like the Three Guys cookbook, as well, but for the purposes of the OP, I thought that Memories of a Cuban Kitchen might be more homestyle-like-mama-used-to-make…what do you think?

Memories is definitely the better, more traditional Cuban cookbook, but there are some great recipes in the “Three Guys” cookbook, too.

Cafe 28 (It’s been a while since I’ve been there–I was only 7 off) is located on Irving Park in Ravenswood. Not the most authentic Cuban food around, but it really is yummy.