Cuban Influence on South Florida Cooking

Bistec de Puerco. Bacan. Ropa vieja. Picadillo. If you know these dishes, then you know Cuban cuisine. You also know that Cuban cuisine is a delicious treat filled with quality ingredients and simple, but incredible flavors. It’s not available in many parts of the United States, but there is obviously no shortage in South Florida.

While Miami is a hub for many Latin American cultures, no other country has as much influence on Miami culture as Cuba. Following the revolution in 1959, many Cubans emigrated to protest the new communist regime. Most of them found their way to Miami. They brought their heritage and culture that includes some of the best of Caribbean and Latin American cuisines.

Miami chefs have opened Cuban-themed restaurants throughout Miami and the rest of south Florida. Luckily for us, they are also starting to open establishments in other parts of the country, making it a lot easier for the rest of to taste the delights of Cuban cuisine.

Any visit to Miami should include a visit to La Fama Cafeteria, considered by many to be the best Cuban restaurant in Miami. La Fama consists of a lunch counter, a take-out window, and a small room with a couple of tables. But don't let the spartan environment fool you — the food exceeds all expectations.

Miami Chefs Know Cuban Cuisine

Cuban cuisine has been influenced by Spanish, French, African, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese cultures. Traditional Cuban cooking is primarily peasant cuisine that has little concern with measurements, order and timing. Most of the food is sautéed or slow-cooked over a low flame. Very little is deep-fried and there are no heavy or creamy sauces.

Most Cuban cooking relies on a few basic spices, such as garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay laurel leaves. Many dishes use a sofrito as their basis. It consists of onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, and ground pepper quick-fried in olive oil. The sofrito is what gives the food its flavor. It is used when cooking black beans, stews, many meat dishes, and tomato-based sauces. Meats and poultry are usually marinated in citrus juices, such as lime or sour orange juices, and then roasted over low heat until the meat is tender and literally falling off the bone.

Other common staples of Cuban cuisine are root vegetables such as yuca, malanga, and boniato. These vegetables are flavored with a marinade, called mojo, which includes hot olive oil, lemon juice, sliced raw onions, garlic, cumin, and little water.

Florida Cooking and Cuban Food

At the many Cuban restaurants in South Florida you will find ropa vieja, vaca frita, rice and black beans, fried plantains, and delicious Cuban sandwiches on the menu. To leave out these, and other, traditional Cuban dishes is to miss out on the basics of Cuban cuisine. Miami chefs need to incorporate these strong cultural influences into their menu selections. The task is well worth the reward.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Miami. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Miami offers Le Cordon Bleu culinary education classes and culinary training programs in Miami, Florida To learn more about the class offerings, please visit for more information.

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