Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, French, African, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese cultures. The food of Havana is varied and plentiful. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a unique, interesting and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences, with strong similarities with the cuisine of the neighboring Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. A small but noteworthy Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their cuisine traditions along with them.
Traditional Cuban cooking is primarily peasant cuisine. Most of the food is sauteed 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 consists of onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, and ground pepper quick-fried in olive oil. This is called sofrito. 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. Another common staple to the Cuban diet are root vegetables such as yuca, malanga, and boniato, which are found in most Latin markets. These vegetables are flavored with a marinade, called mojo, which includes hot olive oil, lemon juice, sliced raw onions, garlic, cumin and little water.
A typical Cuban breakfast consists of a tostada and cafe con leche. The tostada is a portion of Cuban bread which is buttered then toasted on an electric grill. The cafe con leche is a combination of strong, espresso coffee with warm milk.
Lunch consists of empanadas, chicken or meat turnovers, or cuban sandwiches. Dinner will usually consist of a meat, chicken, or fish dish as the entree accompanied by white rice, black beans, and maduros, sweet fried plantains. Cubans love pizza, too. Some favorite toppings include ham, chorizo, and onion.
As for desserts, it is common that for local people eat a delicious "Cocada" and "Merengues duros". One of the main characteristics of Cuban desserts is that they tend to be very sweet, even oversweet for some people. Even coffee is served very sweetened.
If you wish to enjoy a refreshing beverage, remember to order "Mojito", which is prepared with white rum, lemon juice, sugar, mineral water, and mint leaves. Also, daiquiris and Cuban coffee are very traditional in the region.