Eat like a local. Cuba
Wherever I go, I always eat like local people do. Forget about familiar food and go to explore one of the most important parts of the culture!
Cuban foodie tradition is a mix of traditions of Spanish, African and indigenous people of Cuba (Taino). Sound intriguing and promising a diversity of different tastes, right?
However, we should keep in mind that Cuban people are not rich. They earn 20-50$ monthly, and government support everyone with a basic products. It provide some amount of vegetables and fruits (like plantains, bananas, pineapples, onions, carrots and so on), rice, bread, beans, roasted coffee, a portion of chicken. The truth is, they all have enough food to eat and no one on the island looks starving. But with so poor choice of products we can’t expect a big variety of dishes.
There are good and nice looking restaurants in Cuba but you will hardly see any Cuban there.
There are two ways of eating out for local people. The most popular and always crowdie is cafeterias, made in one’s houses and serving simple food and drinks through the window. Here you can lunch with pizza, spaghetti or sandwich with fresh juice or soft drinks.
The upgrade version of cafeterias is a restaurant, organized on the first floor of a house or in the construction nearby. Here you will find proper dinner with meat, cooked with love by big mama:)
Top 5 dishes you must try in Cuba
Although, Cuba wasn’t a big surprise for me in a foodie part of a trip, they have some interesting food to try.
They are quite similar to the Mexican tamales, but in cuban version they mix meat with the dough, in mexican – put it as a filler inside the corn roll. Cuban type of corn is less sweet.
Another popular name – “moros y cristianos”. It is a mix of white rice and black beans, cooked in some spices. It is a popular accompaniment for most of the dishes, usually it served with a fried chicken and plantains.
- Ropa Vieja
Shredded meat in tomato sauce. The most popular cuban dish, along with rice, beans, and fried plantains.
- Lobster. This dudes are cheap here (comparing to other countries), very big, fresh and tasty.
- Guarapo (cane juice) and all fresh juices you will find.
Eating in peso places.
There are two official currency in Cuba. CUC is peso convertible and used by tourists. 1 CUC = 24 CUP = 1$.
CUP is moneda national, people call it just ‘peso’.
If you want to eat like a local, you will go to the peso-places, that looks generally like this:
What to drink.
- Of course, rum, you will say. The truth is, it is more likely to find rum than a milk, it’s very cheap and good quality.
The most known one, Havana club, cost around $ 5-16 and easy to find at every corner.
- Mojito, cuba libre, cubata – classic of Cuba. All these cocktails are made on the basis of rum. Cubans very generous with a rum and you can control, how much alcohol you want in your drink.
Hemingway for a long time lived in Cuba and wrote here the Old Man and the Sea. “Mi daiquiri in el Floridita. Mi Mijito in la Bodeguita,” once he said and now in these two bars they are not in need of tourists.
Take a photo, go inside, but do not buy anything there. One cocktail costs about $ 8 (at the price of a bottle of rum), barmens make them in rush and without soul. If you want to sit in a bar, I advise a small restaurant on Malone, closest to the fortress. They have cozy tables outside with a view of Havana, generous and very tasty cocktails for $ 3. They work honestly, and people there are just wonderful there.
- Beer. Local beer, Cristal, the best and cheapest. The price is 1 CUC (1 $).
There is another beer of Caribbean region, you will find in Cuba – Presidente.On the streets, far from touristic places, you can meet a improvised bar with a draft beer for 5 pesos glass. Lots of people buy a big bottle for take away.
Water. It was very hard to find a bottle of COLD water. Fridges doesn’t work properly. Bottle of water is quite expensive, 1 – 1,5 $ for a 0,5 l.
Having come back from Cuba, I drank water for a couple of days, thanks to the universe for its taste of paradise.
Cuban treasure – freshly squeezed juices . Mango and tamarind are most common ones. They cost 2-3 pesos, and they perfectly refresh.
Try sugar cane juice that they sell on the streets- guarapo juice . It is squeezed from big sugar canes on a machine and mixed with ice or water. Machines are very simple, handmade with Cuban imagination, so most likely you will find some pieces of sugar cane in the juice. It refresh perfectly, and cost only 1 peso, which is less than 5 cents.
They call it ‘cafecito’ or in other countries ‘café cubano’.
I tried coffee at the same places where locals do, so my experience is totally different that you can have in the restaurants.
What you will get if you order coffee in peso-place?
From the huge can, full of warm, prepared few hours ago black liquid with lots of sugar already inside, they put in the cup just a few drops, in ‘expresso style’. It had with a strong smell of cacao.
If you would like to add some milk in your coffee, they will put a milk powder (fresh milk is very expensive in Cuba).
It cost 1 or 2 peso, so I didn’t complain a lot about the taste which I expected to be better.