Cuban Food on a Budget

Christina Ferrara ~ 

For an American student, studying abroad is an expensive experience, therefore eating at high end restaurants is not an option and budgeting your meals is a priority! A typical Cuban meal for an American student in Cuba consists of a type of meat, rice with beans (morales), vegetables and sometimes plantain chips. At every meal, each student was offered different options for a meat; such as chicken, pork, beef, lobster or fish along with the previous mentioned side dishes. The joke of the trip was “chicken, pork or beef?” little did we know it was for our own good on our pocket. These were not the only options offered to the entire restaurant, but as students we received these options because of budgeting.

An appetizer with bruschetta (bread, tomatoes, and onions), papas rellenas (round and filled with ham and potatoes), croquetas (fried mash potato shaped like a mozzarella stick. and two fried meats.

On January 6th, my classmates and I were fortunate enough to have dinner with a group of Cuban students from the local university at a paladar called Casa Abel. At Casa Abel we were able to choose from a limited menu of pork, beef, chicken or shrimp with a side of rice and vegetables. We were also offered appetizers, which consisted of two pieces of bruschetta, one papas rellenas, one croquetas and two fried meats. For dessert we were served the typical Spanish dessert known as flan.

Flan is a common Spanish dessert made of custard and a sweet caramel sauce.

As a group, we thought these appetizers were unfamiliar but some what common to food at home. Most of us we have eaten bruschetta before because it is served as a typical dish in an Italian restaurant. However, bruschetta is a typical Spanish dish as well; a piece of bread with juicy tomatoes and onions on top. The crunchiness of the bread pairs really well with the juice of the tomatoes and sweetness of the onions. For the other appetizers majority of us have never eaten before and we were intrigued by it’s shapes. The papas rellenas was shaped like a rice ball but filled with potato and ham. As I took a bite into the papas rellenas my mouth was bursting with the immense flavor of salt from the ham and cream from the milk of the mashed potatoes. The croquetas is a fried mashed potato in the shape of a mozzarella stick, which was very familiar to me because I eat potato croquettes all of the time. The last food item on the appetizer plate was two pieces of fried meats that were unfamiliar to me but were delicious. The crispness of the bread around the meat gave me a burst of oil as I bit into the fried meat. For my entree, I chose the pork which was served with white rice and vegetables. The pork was chewy and juicy served with this brown sauce that threw off a flavor of mixed spices. As I ate my entree I mixed my shredded pork around with the rice to ease the taste of spices. Lastly, for dessert I ate the common Spanish dish known as flan. Flan is based from a custard and Carmel sauce with a texture that was not familiar to me. The custard was smooth and slide down easily with the sweet Carmel.

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