Meal #15: Ropa Vieja in Cuba with James

Thank you for tuning into episode #15 of Monday’s Marvelous Meals!

In this interview-based food series, you’ll learn about the world’s tastiest cuisines from other travelers and travel bloggers.

In today’s episode, I am happy to have fellow travel blogger talk about his favorite Cuban dish!  After reading this post, your mouth might be salivating because it sounds so delicious!

If you want to be the next person featured in this series, then please contact me with your favorite meal and I will send you the guidelines.  My aim is to cover all cuisines of the globe, so please try to contribute a meal that hasn’t already been covered.

Alright, now I’ll let James take over!

Meet James

James recently started exploring his Latin-American heritage backpacking through Latin America. His most recent trips include visits to Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and most recently, Cuba.

Hoping to connect his love for coffee, culture and travel, James has big dreams of connecting the world one cup of coffee at a time.

Check out his coffee + travel blog, The Global Coffee Counter, and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Question 1: Please share the name of this meal, and carfeully describe what the magical ingredients are. 

This is ropa vieja. That’s Spanish for old clothes, the origin of this dish. It’s a slow cooked, shredded beef in a sweet and mildly spicy tomato-based sauce. Tossed in, you’ll often find  bell peppers, onions and sometimes a tomato wedge. Accompanying Cuba’s national dish, you’ll usually find yellow rice, black beans, yuca and an entree salad of cucumber, tomato and onion. And don’t forget the post-meal Cuban coffee. 

Question 2: Where Where did you eat this meal? Did you discover it while you were traveling, or did you previously know about it?

first had ropa vieja in a somewhat upscale private restaurant (not run by the Communist State). While it was delicious, I enjoyed ropa vieja much more the second time at our casa particular in Trinidad. Not only are casa particulares more common than hostels and hotels in Cuba, but you can also have bigger and better meals prepared for you at your casa. 

first heard about ropa vieja in Miami, actually. But, like with lots of Cuban food I ate on this trip, I chose to wait until Cuba to try it for the first time. Though I’ll definitely be having it whenever I’m in Miami next. 

Question 3: How much money did it cost, and where do you recommend to find it?

Dinner, like this one, usually cost $8-10 USD at your casa particular. They simply add them to your overall tab for your stay. I highly recommend having most of your meals at your casa. If you’re lucky like we were, you’ll have your host sit with you and tell you stories about life in Cuba. 

Question 4: What is your overall favorite cuisine in the world?  What makes it so damn tasty?

Mexican, hands down. I don’t know if it’s in my blood or what, but exploring flavors of corn and chiles in new and old ways turns me on. Though I’m probably biased having grown up half Mexican in San Diego, which is pretty much known for having some of the best Mexican food in the USA. But when I’m traveling in Mexico, it’s tacos, tacos, tacos. I also really enjoy tamales, mole and tasting salsas from different regions of Mexico. 

Question 5: Eating is my #1 favorite part about traveling.  Why do you think it’s so important to eat local foods when you travel abroad?

Same here. And drinking coffee too, obviously. Food is like teleportation/time travel for me. Think about it, dishes like ropa vieja have been eaten for years. And not just in Cuba, but Spain and other Latin American countries too. That’s one reason why even when I’m home I eat food from around the world. Home, or abroad, it’s quickest way to get an understanding of the culture, people and their history. That’s what traveling is all about.

Thanks for sharing, James! Have you ever tried Cuban food? Comment below!

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