Cultured Palate: Dishes from Cuba
7. Pescao en Escabeche
This easy dish is typically made with sawfish, but can be made with swordfish or tuna – no matter the fish, it’s the perfect quick dinner. Pieces of fish are lightly fried and left to cool before being mixed in with vegetables, olives, capers, oil, and vinegar overnight. The overnight rest in the oil-and-vinegar escabeche lightly pickles the fish, making it incredibly tender and succulent. In many Cuban restaurants, you’ll see massive crocks filled with pescao en escabeche sitting on the countertops, especially in the coastal regions.
The Spanish influence on Cuban cuisine is easy to spot, and many traditional Spanish dishes have simply taken on Caribbean flare. Cuban paella is one of those dishes. Instead of being served in a wide, flat pan, Cuban paella is presented in a cazuela, the island’s most iconic ceramic serving vessel. Otherwise, this international dish is almost exactly the same as its Spanish twin. Made with smoky chorizo, brilliant orange saffron threads, and a wide variety of seafood, this paella is perfect for Cuba’s coastal bounty.
9. Lechon asado
If you’re fortunate enough to get invited to a family or community celebration while you’re in Cuba, this is your chance to have a taste of lechon asado, succulent pork roasted over an open fire. For large family celebrations, a whole pig is marinated in an acidic brine known as mojo criollo and cooked in a pit outdoors for hours, filling the neighborhood with the delicious aroma of tender meat. The mojo criollo is what gives the pork such excellent flavor- it’s made with lots of sour orange juice, garlic, oregano, and cumin.