Traditional Cuban food is well known here in West Palm Beach where we have very good restaurants. Ropa vieja, a shredded flank steak or other meat in a rich sauce, Moros y cristianos, black beans and rice, Arroz con pollo, chicken and rice, or Flan, a pie or tart often with a custard base, are among the most popular dishes we are familiar with. But for a relatively small country Cuba has lots of culinary abundance, much of which has long landed here.
For an authentic bite while strolling down the picturesque Latin Quarter around the south end of the city, here are five favorite dishes for a taste of Cuba as made in Don Ramon Restaurante & Social Club, located at 7101 S Dixie Hwy.
1- Tamal con Lechon
Cuban tamales are a great treat that you can have just about anytime of day. Different from the Mexican cuisine, in a Cuban tamal the meat, usually pulled pork, is stuffed inside the dough (made with corn) at the time the tamales are cooked.
The pork is cooked slowly over low heat until it is tender enough to be pulled into strips. Then Cuban Mojo (a garlic-citrus marinade with other concoctions) is added for a flavorful taste.
These two –tamal & pulled pork– combined are a very delicious starter in your Cuban food indulgence at a restaurant.
2- Caldo Gallego
Meaning literally Galician broth, this is a traditional soup dish from Galicia (a Spain’s region) that Cubans adopted it as their own. Usually served with Cuban bread, the Caldo Gallego is also infused with a lot of garlic. The ingredients, white beans, chorizo, ham, pork fat or bacon, ham hock, onion, green peppers, tomato sauce, and seasonings, are mixed with broth and water.
The result is a very hearty soup. As an appetizer, have a cup or a bowl along with Cuban bread, though some prefer “tostones.”
Plantains are a staple in the Cuban diet, used in many dishes but mainly fried when they are ripe. Tostones are made of plantains when they are still green, which are different from another traditional Cuban food, “Maduros” (fried sweet plantains). Peeled and cut in little chunks, the plantains are fried at once for a little, then pulled out and smashed down into little round circles and fried again.
When served, just sprinkled a little salt on them; they will taste heavenly.
Most people are used to Maduros, but Tostones make good pairing with any other food, even with drinks. You could always ask for a little mojo sauce to dip them.
4- Vaca Frita
This is one of the most delicious main course at any Cuban food restaurant.
Vaca Frita stands for Crispy Beef, a close cousin of the famous ropa vieja but made with a flank steak, seasoned, slow cooked, tenderized with aromatic flavors and then pan-seared for its crispy bits.
You will love this dish for the well-structured flavors that keep coming back with every bite. It is usually served with extra lime and can be accompanied with white rice and black beans on the side. The steak will be sprinkled with marinated garlic mojo on top and shredded fried onions.
5- Arroz con Leche
There are many delectable Cuban desserts that will leave you craving for more when you visit a Cuban restaurant. We all know the Flan and the tempting Guava pastries known as Pastelitos de Guayaba, but king among the extensive list of Cuban desserts, Arroz con Leche is a fan favorite.
A dessert that you should definitely try at least once in your life, this is a deliciously creamy rice pudding with sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, and lemon zest.
Beware. It will turn non-rice pudding eaters into fans!
So, now you know a few more traditional dishes of the ever popular Cuban cuisine. A true stalwart is Don Ramon Restaurant on 7101 S Dixie Hwy. They have been offering some of the best Cuban food in West Palm Beach for more than 25 years. You can check their menu here.