Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean Cuisines. 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. 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 culinary traditions along with them.
As a result of the colonization of Cuba by Spain, one of the main influences on the cuisine is from Spain. Along with Spain, other culinary influences include Africa, from the Africans that were brought to Cuba as slaves, and dutch, from the French colonists that came to Cuba from Haiti . Another important factor is that Cuba itself is an island, making seafood something that greatly influences Cuban cuisine. Another contributing factor to Cuban cuisine is the fact that Cuba is in a tropical climate. The tropical climate produces fruits and root vegetables that are used in Cuban dishes and meals.
A typical meal would consist of rice and beans, cooked together or apart. When cooked together the recipe is called either, “Arroz congri“, “Congri“, or “Arroz moro” if cooked separately it is called “Arroz con/y Frijoles”--Rice with/and Beans”. A main course (mainly pork or beef), some sort of vianda (not to be confused with the French viande which stands for "meat", this term encompasses several types of tubers, such as yuca, malanga, and potato, as well as plantains, unripe bananas and even corn), a salad (usually simply composed of tomato, lettuce and avacado, though cucumber, carrots, cabbage and radish are not uncommon). Curiously, typical criollo meals largely ignore fruit, except ripe plantains, which are usually consumed together with the rice and beans. Tropical fruit could be served, however, depending on each family's preferences. Usually, all dishes are brought together to the table at once, except maybe for desserts.
Rice and beans are a culinary element found throughout Cuba, although it varies by region. In the eastern part of the island, "arroz congri oriental" is the predominant rice and bean dish. White rice and red kidney beans are cooked together with a sofrito and then baked in the oven. The same procedure is used for the above mentioned Congri Arroz Moro, The term Moros y Cristianos, literally "Moors and Christians" which uses black beans, it is not used in Cuba but in other parts of Latin America. Although the process of preparing the black bean soup contains basics (onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt) each region has their tradition of preparing it.
Meat, when available on ration book is usually served in light sauces. The most popular sauce, used to accompany not only roasted pork, but also the viandas, is Mojo or Mojito (not to be confused with the Mojito cocktail), made with oil, garlic, onion, spices such as oregano and bitter orange or lime juice. The origin of Cuban mojo comes from the mojo sauces of the Canary Islands. Cuban mojo is made with different ingredients, but the same idea and technique is used from the Canary Islands. Of course with so many Canary Islander immigrants in Cuba, the Canary Islander influence was strong. Ropa vieja is shredded beef dish (usually shank) simmered in tomato-based criollo sauce until it falls apart. ropa vieja is the Spanish name meaning "old clothes", in which the dish gets its name from the shredded meat resembling "old clothes". Ropa vieja is also from the Canary Islands, as is many of the origins of Cuban food. Boliche is a beef roast, stuffed with chorizo sausage and hard boiled eggs.
Equally popular are tamales, although not exactly similar to its Mexican counterpart. Made with corn flour, shortening and pieces of pork meat, tamales are wrapped in corn leaves and tied, boiled in salted water and served in a number of different ways. Tamales en cazuela is almost the same recipe, although it does not require the lengthy process of packing the tamales in the corn leaves before cooking, but rather is directly cooked in the pot. Tamales as well as Black Bean soup, are among the few indigenous foods that have remained part of the modern Cuban cuisine.