Cuban cuisine comes from a rich combination of native foods, Spanish and Moorish influences, and African contributions. All these influences have created a very unique flavor that enhances hearty, satisfying simple dishes.
A typical Cuban meal would contain rice, beans, a main meat dish, root vegetables, and a salad. Most of the food is cooked in a quick saute or slow cooked over low heat. Very little deep-fried and there are no heavy or creamy sauces. Most Cuban cooking depends on a few basic spices, such as garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay laurel leaves.
A typical Cuban breakfast meal consists of a tostada and cafe con leche. The tostada is a part of Cuban bread which is buttered then toasted on an electric grill. The cafe con leche is a variety of strong, espresso coffee with warm milk. Some may eat ham croquetas, smoky creamed ham shaped in finger rolls, lightly breaded, and then fried. For those on the hurry, with no time or desire to eat, a shot of cafe cubano, Cuban coffee, will revive the dead.
Cuban Lunchtime involves of empanadas, chicken or meat turnovers, or Cuban sandwiches. The sandwich could be a media noche (midnight sandwich), made up of a slice of pork, ham, and swiss cheese and then topped with pickles and mustard on sweetened egg bread. The pan con bistec is a thin slice of palomilla steak on Cuban bread garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, and fried potato sticks. One may also obtain a side of mariquitas, thinly sliced plantain chips, to accompany their hearty sandwich.
For snack time, Cuban bakeries are well-known for their finger foods, such as pastelitos, croquetas, bocaditos, and empanadas. Pastelitos are little flaky turnovers in various shapes filled with either meat, cheese, guava, or a variety of guava and cream cheese. Bocaditos are small bite size sandwiches padded with a ham spread.
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. The dish meal is followed by dessert, such as the typical flan, a Cuban caramel-flavored custard, bread or rice puddings and another shot of cafe cubano.
For holidays or special occasions, the one dish that typifies Cuban cuisine would be a small pig, marinated with salt, garlic, and sour orange juice, and then roasted over an open fire, and gradually cooked for several hours.