platanosLatin American or Spanish food – just thinking about it makes me hungry. There is such a wide variety! Let’s start by looking at the food from Mexico. That’s the one that Americans usually identify as Latin food, but there are a lot more cuisines in Latin American than Mexican.

Let’s start by talking about the cuisine of the Caribbean Latin American countries:

  • Puerto Rico
  • Dominican Republic
  • Cuba

Let’s start with Puerto Rico. What a special place with so much wrapped up in a little island. The beach of San Juan will make you think you’re in New York rather than the Caribbean with all of the Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans who grew up in New York) walking around. And then there’s old town San Juan where you can experience what it was like to be in San Juan in the 1500s; but on to the food. What you’ll get everywhere you go are the fried tostones. When you bite into these, you’ll think you bit into a meaty potato, but they’re actually fried bananas or bananas. They’re the green bananas, that is, the bananas before they become ripe. So, they do have potassium in them.

Another thing that may sound strange is the concha frita (fried conch), which is fried clam, but it tastes different than what you would get in the United States.

The Dominican Republic is an interesting little island with the oldest churches in Latin America. In fact, you’ll think you’re in Spain when you’re in certain parts of Santo Domingo. But if you go there, be sure to see the countryside. Many believe it’s the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. As for the food, don’t leave until you’ve tasted La Bandera Dominicana. It consists of rice, beans, meat, vegetables, and fried plantains (bananas). The fried plantains taste very different from the tostones because they are ripe. They are sweet and absolutely delicious!

Interestingly enough, you don’t actually have to go to Cuba to get great Cuban food. Thank goodness because to get to Cuba, you’d have to fly either to Mexico or Canada first. Americans still aren’t allowed to visit Cuba. As soon as they open it up, though, I’ll be one of the first to visit la estrella del Caribe (the star of the Caribbean).

When in Miami, there are so many Cuban restaurants to choose from it’s hard to know where to go. Basically they all serve great food, no matter whether it’s a fancy place like Versailles Restaurant (it actually looks a little like Versailles). In any event, it’s a lovely place to eat, but you can get as good a food at the very casual (but VERY Cuban) Carreta Restaurant.

My favorite dish from Cuba is vaca frita, which translated means fried cow. This is the best beef I’ve ever tasted. It’s crunchy with a salty garlicy slightly sweet taste and served with sautéd red onions. Another dish you can’t miss in a Cuban restaurant is tres leches. It literally means three milks. It’s the best dessert I’ve ever had. It’s a soggy cake with meringue on the top. Don’t miss it!

But to make your dining experience more fun, do learn Spanish before you visit Miami or one of the islands. In addition to knowing a little Spanish, it will make your trip more of an adventure rather than just a vacation.

If you’ve been to any of these islands, let me know by typing something below. I’d love to hear about it!

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