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Where to eat in Cuba according to cookbook author Imogene Tondre

The Caribbean island’s culinary scene is booming. Cookbook author Imogene Tondre takes us on a foodie tour of the island

Where to eat in Cuba according to cookbook author Imogene Tondre
Kids in Viñales, Cuba. Image: Alice Mutasa/Picfair

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Cuba’s food scene is blossoming like never before, largely thanks to innovation in the growing private sector. And while many of these new restaurants are focusing on fusion or international food, others add their own twist to traditional Cuban fare. Most can be found in Havana, but other Cuban cities are also contributing to the culinary scene; it’s impossible to talk about authentic Cuban food without mentioning Baracoa, in the northeast of the country. It has a self-sufficient food culture not found anywhere else in Cuba — many say this is the only place you can find genuinely indigenous food.

What to eat

Plantain: My favourite ways to eat this staple are as chicharritas (very thinly sliced chips) and simply fried. Seek out tasty tostones rellenos — these fried plantains come stuffed with various fillings, most often ham and/or cheese.

Pork: Cubans love pork. Traditionally, on the eastern side of the island you’ll find pork stuffed with rice and black beans, while on the western side it’s simply dressed with the cooking juices.

Tetí: This tiny, seasonal fish is best eaten with tomatoes and as part of a traditional Baracoan dish called bacán.

Insider’s Havana

La Guarida: All meals at this beautiful restaurant start with complementary malanga fritters — a Cuban classic.

San Juan Bar & Grill: This place does stylised versions of traditional dishes. Try the tostones rellenos, fried plantain stuffed with ceviche and pico de gallo. San Juan de Dios 9

Ajiaco Café: In the fishing village of Cojímar, on the eastern edge of Havana, this cafe serves a delicious ajiaco (a thick stew of taro root, vegetables and meat). Calle Los Pinos 267, Cojímar

Make it at home: Squid in its ink

Ingredients
125ml olive oil
10 small squid (about 1kg in total)
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tbsp chopped parsley
240ml dry white wine
1 tsp vinegar

Method
Separate each squid’s head and body. Remove the ink sacs from the head and set aside; discard the head itself, along with the tentacles and quill. Cut the body into rings. Gently fry the squid, onion and garlic in a pan until the onion turns translucent. Add the parsley, wine and vinegar, plus salt and pepper, and cook until the wine begins to reduce. Transfer half the sauce to a bowl and add the ink sacs. Strain into the pan along with the squid; cover and cook on low until the squid is soft (about an hour).

Imogene Tondre has lived in Cuba for eight years, having grown up in the USA. She has a master’s degree in Cuban food culture. She co-authored Cuba: The Cookbook with Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez. RRP: £29.95 (Phaidon)

Published in the Jul/Aug 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)