Cuban food melt­ing pot of culi­nary in­flu­ences

Au­thor­i­ties hope to make the na­tional cui­sine an at­trac­tion to for­eign tourists

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

HA­VANA — Cuba’s culi­nary her­itage is alive and well, thanks to award-win­ning Cuban chef Jorge Luis Men­dez and oth­ers like him.

“We have suc­ceeded in pre­serv­ing au­then­tic, tra­di­tional Cuban cui­sine,” said Men­dez, who be­lieves na­tional dishes “al­low peo­ples to ex­press who they are.”

Men­dez said Cuban food com­bines the culi­nary in­flu­ences of the var­i­ous cul­tures that have landed on the Caribbean is­land through the cen­turies, from Span­ish con­querors to African slaves.

It has been en­riched over the years by the dif­fer­ent vol­un­tary and ar­rivals of im­mi­grants from other parts of the world, said Men­dez, also staff of the tourism fac­ulty at the Univer­sity of Ha­vana.

“The Africans, the Chi­nese, even (im­mi­grants from) East­ern Europe have con­trib­uted to en­rich­ing our food,” he added.

Im­ported fla­vors, com­bined with Cuba’s own na­tive in­gre­di­ents and culi­nary sta­ples, have gen­er­ated such fa­vorite dishes as aji­aco a la criolla (a hearty meat stew), Moors and Chris­tians (black beans and rice), Cuban tamales (stuffed corn dough wrapped and steamed in corn husk), corn or taro root frit- ters, con­gri ori­en­tal (red beans and rice), and yuca in a gar­lic sauce.

Cuban chef Ernesto Bello is an­other pro­po­nent of Cuban cui­sine.

“At home I pri­mar­ily make Cuban culi­nary dishes,” said Bello, who has worked at some of Ha­vana’s best known restau­rants, in­clud­ing El To­cororo, La Finca and La Mo­raleja.

Cuba’s cui­sine has great po­ten­tial “be­cause it is the re­sult of a blend of cul­tures, which is def­i­nitely what we are as a na­tion,” said Bello.

That her­itage is re­flected in the list of the top 25 pop­u­lar dishes in Cuba, com­piled by Cuba’s Fed­er­a­tion of Culi­nary As­so­ci­a­tions based on what lo­cals and for­eign­ers alike or­der most fre­quently.

Cuban Tourism Min­is­ter Manuel Mar­rero re­cently un­der­scored the im­por­tance of the na­tional cui­sine to the tourism sec­tor.

“It will al­ways be pri­or­ity num­ber one to con­tinue to di­ver­sify and raise the qual­ity of our ser­vices in gen­eral, but of our gas­tron­omy in par­tic­u­lar,” Mar­rero said at the open­ing of the 9 th Va­radero Gourmet Fes­ti­val in early July.

To do that, Mar­rero called on “each culi­nary en­ter­prise to cre­ate its own signature (dishes), each chef to pro­vide his own spe­cial sea­son­ing and each bar­tender to add his own touch to the cock­tail he is pre­par­ing.”

Cook­ing in­struc­tor Pe­dro Manuel Ser­rano, who has been work­ing at a restau­rant in Cuba’s renowned beach re­sort of Va­radero for 27 years, said Cuban food.

“Tourists like Cuban cui­sine due to the creativ­ity in­volved in the prepa­ra­tion and the va­ri­ety of dishes,” said Ser­rano.

Cuban au­thor­i­ties hope to make the Cuban cui­sine an ad­di­tional tourism at­trac­tion to for­eign vis­i­tors.

Some 4.2 mil­lion for­eign vis­i­tors are ex­pected to ar­rive on the is­land in 2017, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures. vis­i­tors en­joy

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