Cuban cooking classes

Cuban food is varied, fresh, and plentiful, full of strong flavours and natural produce. Although there is a huge range of restaurants and bars around the country where from you could sample some Cuban delicacies, there is nothing better than being able to cook it yourself in the comfort of your accommodation in Cuba.

In many of the main cities and towns, you will find local markets that stock all the ingredients that you will need for Cuban dishes, the majority of which would have been grown in the immediate area.

One of the best ways to learn how to cook Cuban style is to take a cooking class. Although you will find classes no matter where your Cuba villa rental is located, the hub of cooking class activity seems to be Havana. There are countless tour operators that offer this as an excursion, and it is easy to find one that meets your preferences.

Taking a class is great way to learn about the daily life of a Cuban, that starts first thing in the morning with a trip to the local market. In Havana, these markets are names mercados, and it is where Cuban people purchase their fruit, vegetables, and meat. Once you have purchased everything you need for the dishes that you will be cooking, your tour guide will take you back to the kitchen to begin your culinary adventure.

There are a range of Cuban dishes that you can try your hand at making, the most common of which include:

  • Ropa Vieja – This is a Cuban-style shredded beef dish that is often served with rice and accented with olives and capers.
  • Chicken Stew – This is not chicken stew that most people know; it draws flavours from the alcaparrado and contains a mix of pimento-stuffed olives as well as capers and sweet raisins.
  • Fish with Escabeche Sauce – Made with lots of garlic, sliced yellow onion, bell pepper, and bay leaves, this dish is a Cuban favourite.

Once you know how to cook some of these amazing dishes, you will never have to leave your vacation rental in the Caribbean again!

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How to make the perfect Cubano sandwich

The Cuban sandwich is a staple in many homes in the Caribbean, and even further afield in the southern United States! While the origins of the ‘Cubano’ are highly debated, many agree that this variant on the classic ham-and-cheese sandwich was a quick and filling lunch for those working in Havana’s cigar factories and sugar mills, and eventually made its way to Miami by way of Cuban immigrants.

If you’re looking for a tasty and filling snack to whip up in your Havana villa, then here are the ingredients you will need:

  • Cuban bread (with a crusty outside and a fluffy centre with plenty of air pockets)
  • Olive oil (some people choose to use melted butter instead)
  • Mustard
  • Pork
  • Ham
  • Salami (debated by Cubano enthusiasts!)
  • Swiss cheese
  • Pickles (make sure they’re very thinly sliced)

Slice the bread lengthwise and lightly brush the middle with olive oil before adding mustard to both sides. Layer the fillings to assemble the sandwich. There are arguments over whether salami belongs in a traditional Cubano, but we say yes! Gently toast the bread in a panini press, lightly melting the cheese. Then dig in! It’s ideal to eat by the pool at your vacation villa in Havana after a long day!

Mojo-marinated pork

Making a Great Sandwich Better 

To make your Cubano even better, try making it with slow cooked, zingy mojo-marinated pork. You could even add lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, but be prepared to be frowned at by traditionalists! A Cuban sandwich is also great to make once you’re back home, bringing back all those great memories of your holiday in Cuba and mimicking the amazing tastes of your Caribbean islands vacations of the past. If you can’t find any Cuban bread back home, don’t worry; French and Italian breads are perfect replacements. ¡Buen provecho!


Buying fresh produce in Havana

If you’re staying in a beautiful family villa in Havana, you may not want to dine out every night since you will have a fully equipped kitchen at your disposal. As such, you may wish to try whipping up your own meals using fresh Cuban produce. So where is the best place to shop for fresh food?

Where to Buy Fresh Fruit

Although you may be able to walk from your vacation rental in Havana to a local grocery store for fresh Caribbean food, things are a little different in Cuba’s outskirts. In fact, most grocery stores don’t sell fresh produce at all! Instead, you’ll need to visit one of the island’s agropecuarios, or agros.

There are two types of stores: the standard agro, which sells fruits, vegetables, and meats, and which is often state-run with a price cap on goods. You’ll get a great price here, but selection may be limited. Organopónicos often have a better selection, but are privately run with prices dictated by supply/demand.

How it Works

If you’re staying in a casa particular in Havana, you may wish to accompany your host to the local agros to see how the shopping is done. However, if you’re heading off by yourself, don’t worry — it’s actually very simple. Bring your own bags if possible to reduce waste (although there will usually be some Cuban ladies selling plastic bags outside if needed), pick your foods, and take them to the cashier where they’ll be weighed and you’ll pay. You’ll usually need to pay in the local currency, so you may need to exchange some CUCs at the airport upon arrival or at a local bank.

After you’ve paid, head to the Area de Consumidor, or consumer area, where unofficial ‘staff’ re-weigh your items to see if you’ve been overcharged. If you have, simply head back to the seller who will rectify the issue. While the concept is certainly very unethical, it has become a very normal part of life for many Cubans, who are accustomed to checking that they have been charged the correct price.


Mouthwatering dishes to try in Cuba

When you’re on holiday in Cuba, why not immerse yourself in the local culture and eat like the locals eat? Cuban cuisine largely consists of meats, vegetables, and rice that are prepared, cooked, and served in many ways.

Here are three very popular Cuban dishes that are not to be missed during your trip:

  • Moros y Cristianos

This simple yet delicious rice and bean dish is served practically everywhere in Cuba. You’ll find this on the menu in many Cuban restaurants, and if you’re lucky you may even be able to sample a plate at your casa particular in Havana. There’s a similar dish in Puerto Rico, and it’s a meal that’s served up in many homes in the Caribbean, but some say that the Cuban version really is best!

This national dish is yet another that is served up across the country. It consists of shredded beef cooked with tomatoes and vegetables, and is often served with white rice and sometimes fried plantains. If you decide to whip this dish up yourself in the kitchen of your vacation villa in the Caribbean, be sure to make up a double batch; Ropa Vieja tastes amazing the next day when the flavours have developed!

  • Ajiaco

Three countries count themselves as the creators of this soup-like dish, but much of the evidence points toward an origin in Cuba. Ajiaco is popular in Cuba, Peru, and Colombia where it is the national dish, but each country prepares the dish differently. In Colombia, it is very similar to a soup, while in Peru it’s made with more intense flavours. Cuba’s version is very stew-like thanks to the use of starchy vegetables.

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