Origins of Cuban Chinese Cuisine

Fried Rice & Pork Cutlet
Fried rice and pork cutlet. Pork and rice are both staples of Cuban and Chinese cuisine. Getty Images/shene

Cuban-Chinese Cuisine is the traditional fusing of Cuban and Chinese food by Chinese migrants to Cuba in the 1850s. Brought to Cuba as laborers, these migrants and their Cuban-Chinese progeny developed a cuisine that blended Chinese and Caribbean flavors.

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many Cuban Chinese left the island and some established Cuban Chinese food restaurants in the United States, mainly in New York City and Miami.

Some diners contend that Cuban-Chinese food is more Cuban than Chinese.

There are also other genres of Chinese-Latin and Asian-Latin food blends created by Asian migrants to Latin America over the last two centuries.

Traditional Cuban Chinese food should not be confused with the current trend of Chino-Latino fusion restaurants that have a modern fusion take on the blending of these two cuisine cultures.

Major Food Elements 

The Chinese and Cubans are both fans of pork and serve them as staple dishes. So it was only natural that many Chinese-Cuban specialties involve the “other white meat.”

Popular pork dishes include grilled pork chops in black bean sauce – that’s the Chinese black bean, not the Latin one, using fermented black soy beans. Also popular is a Chinese-Cuban roast pork using Chinese five spice and Chinese-Cuban spare ribs.

Rice is also a staple for both cultures. The Chinese in Cuba took local varieties of rice and cooked it in the Chinese stir-fry method in a wok, creating arroz frito, or fried rice.

They also used the rice in a Chinese rice porridge, which is like a rice soup cooked with bits of meat and vegetables.

Other starches also include noodles for hearty soups, and dough to make wonton wrappers. Plantains, yucca, and black beans are also featured in many Cuban Chinese dishes.

Seafood such as fish and shrimp also make up many Cuban-Chinese dishes.

Often fish, such as red snapper, is served in the Chinese style of frying or steaming it whole, with the head included, using only the lightest of flavorings such as ginger, scallion, cilantro, and lemon.

Popular vegetables include Chinese cabbage, turnip and bean sprouts.

Where to Eat Cuban-Chinese Food

New York:

Miami:

  • El Crucero