Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ask a Cuban-American

Dear Cuban-American: I love Cuban cuisine, but some of the names for entrees are silly! Seriously: a sandwich called media noche? A beef dish called ropa vieja? I get moros y cristianitos for black beans and white rice (funny, in its own racist way), but what are the origins of the other two?

Tostones, not maduros

Dear Mr. not Maduros,

It's actually Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) not Cristianitos, our Christians are all grown up. Since your question is about Cuban cuisine, I decided to once again call in some experts, namely "Three Guys from Miami" from Here's what they had to say:
Medianoche means midnight in Spanish -- so think of the medianoche as the ultimate midnight snack. After a night of drinking and dancing, many people stopped for a bite to eat before heading home to bed. The medianoche is basically the same as a Cuban sandwich, only smaller and served on a sweet egg dough bread. This smaller version of the popular Cuban was just the right size for a late night snack! After all, who wants to eat a big meal right before bed?

Ropa vieja means “old clothes” in Spanish and is a dish of shredded meat, usually made from a leftover beef roast. Like an old cotton shirt or pair of jeans, the "old" meat frays or shreds easily. Many people in Cuba also made this with tasajo or salted beef that was sometimes available when fresh beef was not. Again the tasajo was "old" beef as opposed to fresh beef and was easily broken into shreds for this very typical dish of Cuba.
Watch the "Three Guys from Miami" on The Food Network. They will be appearing on "Christmas in America with Rachel Ray" thoughout December, demonstrating a genuine Cuban pig roast. For air dates and times visit There you can also find links to purchase their excellent cookbooks "Cook Cuban" and "Celebrate Cuban".

By the way, tostones are good but maduros rule!


If you have a question for the resident Cubanazo, please email it to me with "Ask a Cuban-American" in the subject line. Cranks need not apply.

"Ask a Cuban-American" is a complete rip-off of Gustavo Arellano's "Ask a Mexican".

"Ask a Cuban-American artwork provided by Tony Mendoza.


Anonymous said...

Tostones, moros y cristianos, platanito maduro frito, ropa vieja!...mmm...delicious!
I love that!

Gonzalo Fernandez said...

Today I had lunch at Havana Jax, a Cuban restaurant in Wake Forest, a small town north of Raleigh, N.C. I enjoyed an excellent "ajiaco criollo". (With "tasajo", "malanga amarilla", the whole works.)

I had "tostones" as a side, far better than "maduros" in my opinion.