A week ago, Mateja and I were enjoying our last few hours of sunshine under Cuban skies. A week passes, and we’re now back the grind. Gone is the Caribbean weather (not overwhelming in April, but much more pleasant than Vancouver at the moment), as well as the sand, surf, and unlimited piña coladas. Already we’re talking of our next big adventure, not satisfied to simply reminisce for the time being. We’re also not satisfied, however, to simply remember Cuba for its sights and sounds. As this is a food blog, you can probably guess where I’m going with this…
While at our resort, we were quite honestly underwhelmed by the food. We were warned – via online reviews and personal acquaintances – that it wouldn’t be like all-inclusives in other countries, but rather blander and with less options. I honestly figured those critiques to be coming from a place of ultra-high standards, but I was quickly proven otherwise. That being said, when we did learn the ins and outs of our resort’s main dining room (go here, not there; eat this, not that), we were quite satisfied. As well, meals outside of the resort (during excursions to Havana, Matanzas, and the town of Varadero) gave us a tastier, more authentic sampling of Cuban cuisine.
Now home and missing Cuba dearly, I knew that merely uploading and posting a few highlights on Facebook wasn’t going to be enough for me (or us). Wanting more of a full-bodied experience reminiscing (well, eyes AND stomach at least), I decided to make a traditional Cuban dish to include in my year-long cooking/blogging challenge. Of course, I can’t do that without including at least a few pictures showcasing the awesomeness that is Cuba’s natural beauty and awe-inspiring architecture.
The dish I chose to make is called “Congri”, and is essentially beans cooked with rice. Due to food rationing in Cuba, calling rice and beans merely “staples” of the typical Cuban diet is akin to calling Ernesto “Che” Guevara “well-liked”, or a “pretty swell guy”. Though true statements, they by no means express the importance of these things (rice, beans, and Che) to the average Cuban citizen.
I found the recipe for this dish online at, of all places, food.com, titled as “Cuban-Style Red Beans and Rice – Congri Traditional“. Though I changed a few proportions based on what I had readily available (5 slices of bacon, instead of 8; 14 oz kidney beans instead of 16 oz), I otherwise stayed true to what was prescribed. Though quite tasty, the end result needed a bit of extra salt and pepper seasoning. As well, when I make this dish again, I will be cutting down on both the amount of chicken broth added, and time cooked. From those tweaks, I’m sure you can induce my small issues with the dish: the rice was a bit too mushy, and a bit runnier than preferred.
Overall, the dish was a success – measured, of course, by the second helpings Mateja and I both went back for. I served it with the Grilled Mojo Chicken dish I’ve already shared here, and some tomato slices. Thankfully, this time I remembered to include our Havana Club rum, and was able to marinate the meat for nearly a full day (last time was a rum-less 1 1/2 hours of marinating only). The resulting meal was – I’m proud to say – not only a very traditional Cuban dish (though pork over chicken would have made it even more traditional), but also a very delicious one.
Again, I’ve gone deep into a post without much in the way of pictures, so it’s time to make up for that fact. So, without further adieu, here are some of my favourite highlights of Cuba (including, of course, my homemade congri).
First, the food:
Now, on to some highlights of Cuba (in no particular order, the good ones taken by my wife, in all likelihood):
Anyways, like the congri, this was just a little taste of Cuba. Please excuse the lack of captions for the photos of Cuba, as this post was starting to take up all of my Saturday. I’m a little late in sharing this, but I’ll be including it in this week’s Fiesta Friday, the blogging party I’ve been joining lately. This week it’s being co-hosted by Juliana @ Foodie on Board and Hilda @ Along the Grapevine, as well as the ever-present Angie over at The Novice Gardener.
Anyways, my wife just made a delicious spaghetti Bolognese that’s awaiting me, so I’ve got to wrap this up. Happy Fiesta Friday, and until next time – happy cooking!