Cuban Night: Fried Chicken and Hawaiian Pizza

The title of this post may not sound very Cuban, but apparently it is. A few of our friends, who have recently returned from a trip to Cuba, invited us over for a Cuban night where, I assumed, we would celebrate all things Cuban. I imagined cigars, plantains and, of course, rum. I was not far wrong, all those things did play their part in the evening, but they were by no means the main players – except for the rum, that was vital.

This meal was basically an amalgamation of the culinary adventures our hosts had while in Cuba, starting with a hot new food craze and ending with a deliciously simply everyday coffee drink of the kind you might experience in any café across the island nation.

The starter was probably the most surprising part of the meal, as I’m sure it was intended to be; it was Hawaiian pizza! Apparently, in Cuba pizza places are popping up like weeds and this hot new food trend is sweeping the nation. A bit behind the times perhaps, but who can argue with their love of pizza? It is one of the world’s great culinary joys.

With the starter we enjoyed a lager-type beer called Bucanero which had a fuller, richer flavor than most lagers and was really quite good. It also had a pirate on the can, so that went down well.

The Cubans love their starch: beans, rice, plantains, yams – they gotta have it. These starchy sides sat alongside a huge piece, followed by an even huger platter, of fried chicken.

With the main we had a German beer, not authentic, I know. Our hosts had visited the brewery on one of their many trips to the continent in their motorhome. I won’t attempt any tasting notes, suffice it to say we drank the whole jug and it was good.

Dessert was a trio of delights: banana in caramel, cinnamon rice pudding and a token chocolate chili cupcake for one of our dining companions, a self-confessed chocoholic.

Following dessert we had a Cuban coffee which was a rum liquor called Elixir de Cuba, coffee and lots of steamy, frothy milk. The liquor is made with 7 year-aged rum and, from what I can find online, raisin extract and demineralised water. It was delicious on its own and amazing in the coffee. I think I drank mine, my husband’s and anyone else’s who left theirs lying around the table too long! It was quite a process, but worth every step.

It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, but how great is it to have friends who, rather than boring you with holiday snaps, actually share their travels with you through a taster menu! We had a great time and, despite the inordinate amounts of starch, I think we’ll try and have a first-hand taste of Cuba one day. Somebody’s got to help them drink all that rum.

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