[tweetmeme source=”connergo” only_single=false]Not questionable Cuban food, mind you, but questions about Cuban food which continue to dog me, even after 10 years here, like: why are there no croutons? Or guacamole? And why don’t Cubans cook with coconut (Baracoa excepted)? Or bacon? I mean, it’s not as if there aren’t enough cocos and pigs to go around. To be fair, bacon is making inroads (see note 1) and I’ve seen a couple of coconut dishes here in Havana, but a tasty use for stale bread and old avocados?! You’d think the frugal out of necessity and habit Cubans, people who always use a tea bag twice and for whom disposable diaper is an oxymoron would be all over these past expiration date preparations. But no.
As devoted readers of this blog well know, I’m preoccupied with food, maybe disproportionately so, but that’s what happens when your formative years are spent in a food insecure home (see note 2). Whether that’s the reason my mom and siblings are such avid, fantastic cooks, I can’t say, but it rubbed off on me. This devotion to inventive, well prepared food coupled with the hundreds of restaurants, bistros, cafés, buffets, and drive-ins (Hawaiian kine) I’ve had to review for guidebooks makes me an expert of sorts (the bad, overly critical kind perhaps, but hey, someone has to steer you clear of shitty food in your travels).
Not surprisingly, I’m both excited and wary about the explosion of new restaurants in Havana. Excited because the quality and diversity of menus are improving – even in state restaurants which seem to be upping their game in the face of stiffer competition. Wary because I know how horrifyingly crappy Cuban food can be and the tricks used to try and cover the fact. At the same time, I’m concerned for my fellow travelers since everyone is writing about these new eateries, including amateurs and hacks who are dangerously unqualified – either due to a lack of regard for good food in general or ignorance of Cuban cooking and context specifically. These poseurs shall remain nameless, (that would be tacky), but their “work” on the topic has motivated me to help out with some observations about eating in my fair city.
All the examples below are from new paladares which are currently or soon will be listed in my app Havana Good Time.
An Indian restaurant sans raita – So Cuba has its first “Indian” restaurant (note quotation marks people – punctuation has a function!). The space is quite lovely and the staff is attentive, but the food? Like the guy I lost my virginity to, being the first is not enough to win me over. I know, I know, I should be thankful that we even have an “Indian” restaurant here (see note 3), but you know what? I cook better Indian food and mine is accompanied by the requisite raita. For those not familiar with Indian cuisine, this traditional sauce is used to cut the spiciness of dishes while adding a dynamic flavor layer to the palate. And before you jump down my throat about the unavailability of certain ingredients here in Cuba: raita is yogurt, cucumbers, and garlic – three items that rarely go missing here in Havana.
“Vegetarian” spring rolls – It’s really too bad that the new Vedado paladar serving this toothsome finger food doesn’t heed punctuation as religiously as we do: when I cut into one of these rolls recently, out spilled bok choy, scallions, cabbage, carrots and…ham. When I asked the waitress (nicely, my shoulders unburdened of any NYC or foodie chip) what was in these rolls, she confirmed the presence of the ever-present pork. I pointed out that this could result in some serious problems – not only with vegetarians (see note 4), but also with Jews and Muslims too, who take as much solace as herbivores to see vegetarian selections on the typically pork-laden Cuban menu. When I asked why they call them “vegetarian,” she said with a straight face: ‘because there are lots of vegetables in there.’
Deep fried olives are considered nouvelle cuisine – I don’t know what was more shocking: seeing something besides Gouda cubes and croquettes as hors d’oeuvres or the realization that they had actually deep fried olives to serve to a group of foreign VIPs. While far from heart healthy, I have to admit these were disconcertingly tasty, which can be said for almost anything except the deep fried cucumbers I had last week. Both of these examples, by the way, hail from Habana Vieja, part of Eusebio Leal’s wickedly clever fiefdom (which is usually head and shoulders above regular state enterprises). Alas, sophistication is not an overly common Cuban trait, as evidenced by…
Oil & vinegar, the one and only dressing – Sure, you might get a nice honey Dijon in someone’s home, but in a high end paladar? Not likely, where the same tired oil-vinegar- salt trio prevails (lucky you if that exotic spice we call black pepper is available!). A few places are starting to provide balsamic and olive oil, considering this the height of haute, showing how far we are from raspberry vinaigrettes or tahini-lemon dressing. Granted, raspberry vinegar and sesame paste are in short supply here, but honey, Dijon, blue cheese, anchovies, capers, soy sauce and many other ingredients for inventive dressings are available sin problema. But this lack of sophistication is even more blatant in the place with…
Busty waitresses in low-cut blouses and Daisy Dukes – I don’t care how hot you are (or think you are or your manager thinks you are): I don’t want my steak served with more flesh in my face than Copacabana sees in summertime. In a word: inappropriate! Especially at this expensive high-end restaurant featured recently in several glossy magazines (which made a glaring omission of the “uniforms;” unsurprisingly, all the articles were written by men). Havana Hooters anyone?
The $4 fruit shake – Argue with me all you want (welcome to the club!), but this is simply wrong in our context and distorts the local economy like the thousands of bright-eyed NGO workers who rush into post-disaster Haiti or Indonesia and pay triple the going price for bananas, potable water, taxis, whatever. To all the new places offering the four dollar shakes and similar: consider yourself boycotted on GPs.
Musing about all this leads me to believe the absence of croutons, guacamole, and coconut-based dishes is due to lack of knowledge, experience, creativity, motivation, or a combination thereof.
What do you think readers? Any surprising omissions in your Cuban culinary travels?
1. I predict crispy bacon (not the flaccid, fatty crap at hotel buffet troughs) will explode in popularity as US visitors continue to pour in and restaurateurs realize the egg/bacon/toast triumvirate is as American as inequity.
2. Mom was a single mother of four which made her, out of necessity and habit, a creative, but stretched cook (and very Cuba in her way which is a big factor as to why I’ve been able to survive/thrive in the peculiar conditions on this side of the Straits. Epigenetics might have something to do with it too). We all remember with a shudder living on oatmeal for two weeks solid and the fight over who got more noodles. This fracas is still dragged out to this day – but in the best, sibling rivalry type of way now that our oatmeal and noodle days are behind us.
3. In the interest of full disclosure: everyone I’ve talked to who has eaten there – visitor and Cuban alike – was very impressed with the place which means one of two things: my standards are too high or theirs are too low.
4. I have seen a strict vegetarian take a bite into an egg roll he was told was 100% veggies and the resulting fisticuffs – never underestimate the strength and rage of a pissed off vegetarian!
41 responses to “The Cuban Food Question”
The vegetarian spring rolls with pork would be the ideal vegetarian food for my husband! 🙂 That is too funny.
Fried olives? That sounds quite nouvelle indeed! You’ve made me curious now….
And in this post, I use the term “steak” loosely – especially for my friends hailing from Argentina like Aledys!
Is Cuban food spicy🍗👅🔥😭🤒💯
Not at all. we keep a bottle of Sriacha (sp?) on hand at Cuba Libro. Cubans (most anyway) abhor spicy.
If the food isn’t good, at least the “Busty waitresses in low-cut blouses and Daisy Dukes” are an appetizing diversion!
Depends on the diner, I guess. I find it off-putting (and lacking in gender perspective).
In general, there is very little “ethnic” non-Cuban food in Havana, unless I am extremely uninformed. I attribute it to the fact that this stopped being a country of immigrants many years ago and the combined reasons listed by Conner.
For visitors, this may not be important, but for residents who long for variety without having to go searching for (and paying high prices for and then cooking) the ingredients themselves, it is a drag. There was an authentic Syrian restaurant for a while (closed down) and at least one Chinese restaurant in Barrio Chino cooks real Chinese food (as opposed to Chinese-Cuban), and a Mexican-style paladar does a lukewarm and expensive job (although they do have mole…) Anybody know of others??
Wow! A chica after my own heart! I spend every day obsessing about what I will eat the next day. And after 16 years, I still can’t figure out why Cubans eat (or don’t eat) the way they do.
Made a killer coleslaw out of grated cabbage, carrots, onions, radishes and home-made mayo. Was told that carrots make your skin orange and they are only used to feed rabbits.
Made lazy man’s cabbage rolls. Ground pork, rice, onions, cabbage in tomato puree. Was told cooked cabbage gives you too much gas. Like raw cabbage and a steady diet of beans don’t?
Made a vat of chilli. Used a tablespoon of chilli powder. Was told picante food eaten in a hot climate is bad for you because it makes you sweat.
Made a coconut puree from shredded coconut and the coconut water. Simmered chicken in it. Was told that coconut is bad for the digestive system
Used above puree to make a chicken curry. No one liked the taste of curry powder.
Made a coffee cake type flan in the pressure cooker. Was told coffee is for drinking, not cooking.
Made tomatoes stuffed with olives and rice and bits of shredded chicken along that was met with grudging approval.
Now I enjoy a salada frio (pasta, ham and pineapple) on occasion, but why do they have to dump 2 tablespoons of sugar in it?
And I do not know how they can tell what anything tastes like, because its simply dished on top of the big bowl of congris and glommed down in record time with a spoon.
The only “exotic” think that I made that was greeted with a hearty “rico” was thinly pounded chicken, rolled around a slice of fresh pineapple, sauteed and then finished off with a rum flambe, but I think it had more to do with the rum, because 8 of the ten family members picked out the pineapple and only ate the chicken. Ah…es Cuba..
Ha! I think things are even worse in el Oriente (Im sure they are – eating everythind with a spoon is SOP there, whereas here in HAvana, we’re more of the “real men don’t eat soup, and if they do, they eat it with a fork” types). My chili is in HIGH demand (though I do have to temper it for some guests), curry is the new in thing and my Thai Cabbage salad is also often requested (again, spiciness must be tempered).
But your peeps are really “descaraos” – you sound like one hell of a cook! Would love to dine at your place – as long as ensalada fria is NOT on the menu. Ive ranted about this staple of Cuban parties before and Ill do it again: spaghetti, mayonnaise, ham and pineapple never go well together in my book.
Candysita: I was born in La habana (marianao) came to the states as a 5 years old (50+ years ago) and what you say above (all of it) is exactly how I eat and how most of my Cuban friends eat. I did not even realize it was so Cuban. Chili – never. peanut butter? – not even food. Fruit is to be eaten as friut ONLY – never in a meal that is cooked. Lump everything together – you betcha, it’s how things taste best. Soup has to served in a bowl with a large, flat lip and a large soup spoon – which really is a must have for any meal. I find we don’t really care for fancy food, we are really contened with our staples, i just wish there was variety in Cuba so it would at least be an option
Hola Lourdes…I was not finding fault, just making some observations because I too eat the same way…with a spoon, everything in one bowl, sometimes we do not have enough forks when family comes. We eat everything from a bowl with a flat lip. I too would like more variety but even Mami who eats everything does not like cinnamon on her flan! I went to a big buffet at a big hotel a week ago when I was there as a guest of a friend. There was so much to eat and after 3 weeks at my family’s I was confused as to what to eat so just took a big bowl of congris (terrible at a resort) and chicken!
Candy: hilarious, that bedazzling buffet effect! I have had the same experience: walking into a huge hall, with a snaking, giant ‘mesa sueca‘ and being completely stunned dumbed by the array of food – quantity, variety, color! texture!. When this happens, I usually just head straight for the cheese (or pasta – also not the best choice after living on comida criolla since spaghetti is like the 2nd national dish).
Ive also had Cuban friends eat so much of such different/exotic foods at these buffets that they barf.
Re Note 4 – Are you referring to the infamous Kaelin incident? 🙂
Indeed!! Although I have come to think of it as the “infamous Cataldo incident” (unfortunately, more than just the spring roll falls under that rubric).
Where can I find the best a) Ropa Vieja b) Cocodrilo and c) Tortuga?
This may be a little off topic, and please forgive my ignorance but…. a) does Cuba accept immigrants? (if so I am curious as to what their immigration policy is like) and b) have you thought of becoming a Cuban citizen? Is that possible.
Im not a huge fan of ropa vieja (talk to me about cerdo and we’ve got a discussion!) so can’t really opine there and do not eat turtle (known as caguama) since there are indications that this docile, long-lived creature may be my aumakua (ancestral spiritual helper in Hawaiian). Cocodrilo Ive had once – at the crocodile farm in Guama. It was tasty, but helped along by salsa picante.
Cuba’s modern immigration laws are strict (and foreigners, bar those of mythical status a la Che, cannot become citizens). Historically, Chinese, Jewish, French, Haitian and of course African “immigrants” (quotes for last in that list) have contributed to Cuban mix.
When I asked why they call them “vegetarian,” she said with a straight face: ‘because there are lots of vegetables in there.’
That is such a typical Cuban waitstaff response!
A little off the subject but some years ago we went for lunch to a restaurant which we were going back to that night for dinner with friends. So we decided it would be prudent to eschew the house speciality of (excellent) lamb stew and asked for the menu.
After spending the usual time debating what we would have we attempted to order only to be told THAT item wasn’t available. We went through the same process a second time only to get the same response. Being fast learners we then asked what on the menu WAS available.
“Well why did you give us the menu if that is the case”
“Because you asked for it”.
For me one of the delights of travelling has always been about that daily exercise of “where are we going to eat tonight?” with a great sense of expectation. Sadly Cuba has always been the exception to this.
Without dried chilie and sambol uelek (chilliepaste) we would not survive our 3 month stints there.
We were admittedy pleasantly surprised very recently at the food quality of many of the newer paladares not only in Havana but as widely spead as Camagüey, Holguin, Trinidad and Caibarién. But equally importantly surprised at a seeming change in service cullture in many of these restaurants e.g. where a meal sent back for some reason – or a warm mojita/beer – was without any discussion deleted from the final bill.
Hope that refection does not earn us the poseur label.
Hey John – thanks for contributing your anecdote. Packing chili paste is a must for anyone that likes spice (I had a whole digression in this post about that particular subject but edited it out).
None of your reflection earns you a poseur label (on the contrary), but referring to yourself with the royal third person (“us”) is borderline!
As a fish eating vegetarian travelling around Cuba for the past month, I cam home with a lot of questions.
Why did we see carrots and beetroot being sold on the street everywhere, but rarely had them served up, either in Casa or restaurant?
Why was the cheese so awful? Lot’s of sheep and goats around, in Oriente anyway. We were told it’s because goat’s milk “smells”…
Beware the “vegetable” soup. I’m sure it’s made from chicken stock. Once I found a large piece of chicken they’d ommitted to extract….
I was told (and this might not be true!) that all the chicken sold in Cuba is imported. Whaaat???
Hiya Anita. This is classic in Cuba! you see all these veggies in the markets (and we’re at peak season right now, with more in season than any time of year) but you don’t see them on your plates.
I think, however, recently there is another factor at work: see all those lovely, lucious fruits and veggies they’re selling in mobile carts being pushed through or parked in the neighborhood? Those are TRIPLE the price as in the state agros, which can be far from where you live, feature long lines but low prices. And these ‘vendedores ambulantes’ are buying their goods from those agros and jacking the price. As a result, the cheap (ie affordable for most families) veggies are scooped up by people who are going to resell them. I figure carrots and beets were probably not available at the cheap price the days you were traveling.
Ive got a real beef w these ambulatory sellers which are handy for those with $$$, a nasty tease and supply sucker for those without.
Hope you had a nice trip otherwise
Thx for the Cuban cuisine updates!
While living and working on a small Pacific island years ago, I fell in love with coconut cuisine. Embedded in this old piece are some great coconut recipes: http://www.mauiwriter.com/CoconutCuisine.pdf
Awesome! Nothing like Hawaiian-sourced coconut recipes. Ill check it out when I have a decent connection….
Hitting the nail on the head, as usual. The Guacamole Conundrum has plagued me since my first visit to Cuba, but somehow haunts me less than the other great mystery: the Gazpacho Enigma.
With no guac, I guess, maybe, that since avocado in Cuba is so matchlessly good, and so expensive in CUP terms, it’s almost kind of honorary meat (the highest destiny for a vegetable/fruit, in the Cuban pantheon) and so it’s not considered necessary to do any more than slice and enjoy it. (Although perhaps even as I type, some enterprising paladarista is experimenting with deep-frying it with lemon and garlic mojo.)
With gazpacho the mystery taunts me. As with guac, all the ingredients are available in Cuba; unlike guacamole it doesn’t have even a hint or possibility of dangerous picante-ness (no chili required); the Spanish culinary heritage is still alive, if mummified, in Cuba and they’re still eating wildly unsuitable-for-the-climate delicacies like garbanzos and fabada and whatnot. But NO CUBAN I HAVE EVER MET has ever prepared gazpacho at home and very very few have even tried it.
whyyyyy? i’d put it down to the dreadful shortage of sharp knives (essential to do the job really properly as handcut gazpacho is a different thing altogether from the blender version) but blenders are everywhere in cuba, for all sorts of batidos except gazpacho.
any insight? sigh …..
As always viajera: a thought-provoking comment. Perhaps it has to do w the dicho: “real men don’t eat soup and if they do, they eat it with a fork”? Another idea: every tomato is used either for salad or pure? but you are so right: this comes from Spain, cold soups are good in hot climes (though Im not a gazpacho fan myself), and all the ingredients/tools are available.
On the sharp knives: next time you all are in Cuba, take a look at the “puntico” (tip) of the big knives you come across: 90% have it broken off since knives are used for all sorts of maneuvers. But I digress.
Avocados are expensive in Havana, I admit (8 pesos – about 40 cents at the cheapest), but cheaper in the provinces AND a normal tree produces upwards of 300 fruits. And Ive seen some way past prime (ie perfect for guac) in the agros. Also, I don’t make my guac w picante….so, remains a mystery to me!
LOve the deep fried w mojo (any vehicle for mojo is ok by me!) idea. Maybe Ill give it a try….
Cheers, thanks for writing in
IMHO it’s because the majority of Spanish immigrants in Cuba were from Galicia, Asturias and Canarias (hence the “fabadas”, “potajes”, hot soups, stews, pork, etc.
Yes, except now there are many Cubans coming BACK from all parts of Spain (many permanently since the global crisis is better passed on these shores!) and you’d think they’d bring back some culinary savvy. Which reminds me, they are: Cafe Laurent is a fantastic new paladar in el Vedado where they do a brilliant gazpacho (according to my dining companions), accompanied by a side plate of croutons and other tasty tidbits to throw on top. Ive got a picture of it in the iapp.
Well… when I return home, I want my mom’s food…maybe they do the same?
“but referring to yourself with the royal third person (“us”) is borderline!”
Of course my post should have commenced with
“A little off the subject but some years ago MY Wife and I went for lunch ….”
So no royal “we” but Mrs A is of course a princess (actually Ms Hernandez!).
We Cubans have a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard “El que no sabe, es como el que no ve” (he who does not know, it’s like he who does not see, sorry for the makeshift translation!!). I left Cuba only 6 years ago, and at the beginning my husband and I were resistant to any changes in food. We now LOVE Thai food, have about 6 or 7 bottles of hot sauce (love sriracha), eat broccoli, clauliflower and spinach, etc. I still love Cuban food but find myself cooking Cuban food only from time to time, or when my husband asks for it, like this past weekend he wanted an ajiaco. I miss the flavour of pork back home and I buy it from a farm nearby my city as they have Berkshire pigs and the meat is more marbled, similar to pork meat in Cuba.
But what I think is that being in an isolated island, with no knowledge (or maybe second hand knowledge) of what is going on in the world in terms of food or fashion and a million other things, we tend to stick to what we know. Add to that the typical Cuban stubbornness and then you get Cuban food in Cuba. And notice that I say “in Cuba” because Cuban food in Miami or New York, even cuban fusion or nouvelle latin cuisine is awesome. I used to repeat the “facts” without knowing or trying things myself. Spicy food is not good for hot countries (right,tell that to indians or to most africans lol), salads are for goats, men don’t eat soup, etc. But time and above all, being exposed to different cultures and food made me change my mind. I still hate being told that Cuban food is “bland”. If by bland people mean “not spicy” then it is, but then so is most french, italian and spanish food. Our food, cooked at home and having all spices available, is full of flavour. A good sofrito base, having garlic, onions, tomatoes, cumin, etc cannot and will not be “bland”. Could it use a bit of heat? IMO it does and I add it to my food now, not scorching hot, hiding the other flavours, that to me is not flavourful. Hot for the sake of being hot, heck no.
Another Cuban friend of mine who’s lived here in Canada for 11 years shares my opinion. We’ve tried sending our families recipes that they can make with what they have, or send new condiments, but to no avail. My mother likes curry and paprika, and I mean to bring lots of condiments and cooking when I go to Cuba this year and then show them how to make some things, like papaya and mango salad, to which my mom pulled a face but then I told her that we have avocado and pineapple salad,add raisins to picadillo and eat bananas with rice and beans so mixing sweet and sour is not a novel idea to us. Before I left, I had to make my stepdad a big bottle of honey mustard dressing which is so simple but most people back home don’t know of. (Again, olive oil is expensive and balsamic vinegar is almost unheard of). The best way is to show them, have them eat it and little by little people get used to it.
I made chili for my mom and she liked it so maybe she’ll try it again.
Now, I hate cooking with coconut milk (except for coconut rice lol) so maybe some things are just a personal preference. I still do not like guacamole and gazpacho disgusts me, again, personal preference. My friend and I are compiling recipes our families can try at home with the ingredients they have available.
Things will change, but slowly. As to restaurants, paladares etc it is about the bottom line, $$$$. So they will slowly adjust and learn that vegetarian has to be that, vegetarian (no chicken stock, no ham hidden in the croquetas).
Wow, I almost wrote an essay, sorry about that 🙂
JA, you talk complete bollocks!!
I kept looking for good fish at a meal. What I got looked and cut more like a pork chop. What was really awesome was the coffee. What is in it? Is it home grown? I think I could make a few million by selling it outside of Starbux.
Just found your blog and found this post very in-keeping with my experience of Cuban food when I was there last year! I arrived there fresh from 10 weeks travelling around Mexico where the food was mouth-watering even from the sketchiest looking street vendor, so was nothing less then heartbroken when I had my first meal in Havanna.
My favourite anecdote of my food experience in Cuba was in Trinidad. We were spending the day on the beach, so stopped at the only decent looking restaurant on the seafront to have lunch. After being away for a while and craving some home comforts, 3 of us decided to order a burger, and 1 for a ham and cheese sandwich. My boyfriend politely asked if he could have some fries with his burger.
They told him no.
He checked the menu and asked again ‘But you do serve fries?’
‘Yes, the chicken comes with fries.’
‘So, can I pay extra and get some fries with the burger?’
‘I’ll check with the chef.’
A tense 5 minutes went past. He returned.
‘No. The chef says fries only with the chicken. Not with the burger.’
A logic that we just couldn’t understand. Made worse by the fact that when the burgers came out, they were laying between two slices of ordinary white bread, while the one person who ordered a sandwich was given her ham and cheese in a burger bun.
I feel this story pretty much sums up my experience in Cuban state-run restaurants, so thought I would share it!
Nice! The moral I extract from this story (and which largely still holds true despite the explosion of burger joints): resist the temptation to order a hamburger in Cuba. It will just disappoint. The fries thing is hilarious!
As an aside: I keep having people writing in that they’re finding my blog and iapp AFTER they come back from Cuba. A bit problematic. Anyone have any handy tips for SEO optimization/getting my stuff more noticed (without $$$ – that is in as short supply as Cuban food logic!)
As a vegetarian, the spring rolls concern me slightly but I liked this. Good to have a proper citizen’s opinion rather than travellers who just pass through and, as you said, aren’t accustomed to Cuban food.
All who would like a great spicy meal must look at this wwww.bollywoodhavana.com
Opinions opinions, some don’t like Rolls Royces, others BMW’s and so on, but we all know a good thing once experienced.
This restaurant is usually full with dignitaries, from Ambassadors,they have Tandoori Chicken, Lamb Rogan Josh Naan bread,
Freshly made Samosas and so on………
They have been well publicised in the New York Times, U.K Times, and one reporter from the U.K said ” she has eaten in all the best restaurants in London, and this compares with one of them”
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT FOLKS,
Anyone for a Curry in Cuba??
Oscar De Haviland
Dined over 20 times, Viva Bollywood! Viva .
Hi Oscar. Have you seen my app? Im guessing not since Bollywood has been in there awhile. Ive only been once (20 times you’ve eaten there? Im not sure I understand why you would dine ANYWHERE 20x in such a short time – Bollywood has only been open a year or so – no matter in NYC, Paris, SF or any other foodie city, but especially not Havana) and Im not slated to go back any time soon (too expensive for us local types), but I have some dissent. Where is the raita? Where’s the tamarind sauce? Spicy onions? How about some more veggie selections??
Anyway, thanks for writing in with what sounds like advertorial.
Bollywood Havana is where all your dreams come true with this superb new AUTHENTIC INDIAN RESTAURANT
Thank God Cuba is changing!!!
Where ALL my dreams come true?! they better get to work at it cuz “people say Im a dreamer….”
PS – I did not find this restaurant “authentic”, Oscar, the one time I ate there. It’s expensive too, so Im not going back for a while (or until someone invites me!)
I am a foodie who loves spices. I am also a 110% capitalist, not keen on bringing gifts to strangers, only to a few friends. What spices or seasoning should I bring that I can sell/trade? Cumin, oregano, black pepper, bay laurel — I can buy them all cheap where I am and decent quality. Question is what spices, if any, are poor quality and expensive in Havana so I can capitalize on that shortage in the non free market? I was thinking of bringing turmeric to the one Indian restaurant (in order to trade for meals) but I hear that they don’t really care much for quality ingredients. When I lived in Havana before I spent so much time shopping and cooking in my little apartment near the university. I was surprised that none of my female guests liked to cook. I cooked for them! This time I take my own spices. I quickly became fed up scouring markets for anything fresh, any variety of green veggies or paying high prices in CUC. Frozen food? Yech! I live in Southeast Asia where it is a cornucopia of produce and spices: fresh curuma, lemon grass, shallots, etc. Question is who in Cuba also cannot and is willing to pay the price for my errand and transport? The goal is to help pay for my airfare and do some monkey wrenching of Castro and Bush’s controls.
Hi Hermes. Not sure when you were last there, but things have changed mightily. Cumin, oregano, bay leaf and black pepper available everywhere (in Moneda Nacional to boot), a variety of chile peppers, fresh cilantro, basil, parsley available (check out “diplo agro” at 19 and B), plus specialty spice shops (eg Marco Polo in Habana Vieja). I don’t think your idea will net you much money. Also: Bollywood (the only indian resto in havana), closed about a year ago. Good luck!