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Cuba-China frigate is a reminder of a complicated past

Ask a Cuban-American for a traditional family recipe and you’ll find a common source of laughter. After all, years of training as tiny sous chefs for our abuelas and mamas have taught us that Cuban food (mostly considered a peasant cuisine in the culinary world,) is first of all learning how to tailor the ingredients one may have on hand, as well as the preferences of the cook and eater. In fact, it seems that if there’s ever been a rule to follow precisely when cooking a Cuban dish, it’s to know the history behind the meal you’re about to serve, as it’s already a rule. Such a rule affects your identity. While encouraged to measure out every cup of rice and seasoning dishes like ropa vieja and Moros y Cristianos with fists and pinch of fingers, young Cuban-Americans have learned essential lessons about the broad past. large, and often unexpected, of their country.

For me, a first-generation American following my mother (who fled Cuba with her parents and siblings during the Revolution), the most dramatic lesson in the island nation’s culture we’re in one of my favorite meals: arroz frito, a classic Cuban with Chinese roots.

With its origins in China, arroz frito (which translates directly to “fried rice” and colloquially referred to by Cuban-Americans as “Cuban-Chinese fried rice”) suffices to serve as a metaphor for a country. forged by networking and transnational migration. . When I first learned to make arroz frito, I used a stool so I could observe my family’s kitchen counter. My mother, an Afro-Cuban, decided to teach me how to make this dish – not only so that I could eventually pass it on to her grandchildren one day, but also to let me understand that there is no Which nation is made up of one kind of people. Cuba, whose population includes Europeans, Africans, indigenous and Chinese, is just one such example. Since graduating with a stepladder, I’ve come to realize that no family or restaurant serving an arroz frito is quite the same – as is the case with any Cuban food. However, all its versions are based on three common elements: soy sauce, rice, and a history lesson. Measurements for the former may vary, but the story of how this dish is so deeply rooted in Chinese to Cuban cuisine, remains the same.

From 1848 to 1888, when the British were trying to pressure their allied powers France, Spain, and Portugal to end the slave trade, Chinese laborers was brought to the Caribbean island by the Spanish colony of Cuba escrow servicers. In “Chinese Cubans: A Transnational History (Imagine Cuba),” Kathleen M. López explains how during a particular trans-Pacific migration, known as the Coolie Trade, nearly 142,000 people Chinese immigrants signed slave contracts (with little understanding and foresight of the brutal conditions they endured) so they could work in Cuba.

Of course, arroz frito isn’t the only dish to emerge from the arrival of Chinese immigrants in Cuba. Today, Cuban-Chinese restaurants can still be found in parts of the US (Just check Nuevo Jardin De China in New York or Restaurant El Crucero in Miami) with dishes befitting the union of these workers and their new home beyond arroz frito. Typically, these menus feature grilled or fried pork, black beans, and rice (all common areas of both cultures in terms of accessibility and familiarity), regular dishes include items like res y brocoli estilo chinoand costilla con salda de frijolitos chino. However, regardless of restaurant and menu, arroz frito is almost always available.

During their stay in Cuba, these Chinese laborers cooked local varieties of rice such as Valencian short-grain and long-grain white rice, along with other essential Cuban ingredients, according to the Chinese stir-fry method. . After rice, the basic ingredients for making arroz frito are oil and tallow (my family uses bacon fat), as well as cooked diced ham and other meats like shrimp and pork. diced pork and diced chicken. Vegetables such as green beans and red bell peppers are also often included. Soy sauce, green onions, garlic and eggs are also added to the mix. While my family’s recipe calls for eggs to be beaten in a bowl and then placed in a pan along with other hot ingredients, similar to many Chinese fried rice techniques, I have also seen The recipe in which the eggs are whisked separately and added is fully cooked. Once, I dined at a Cuban restaurant where eggs were served as a topping, ordered Japanese omurice. As my mother used to say, “¿No te lo dije?” – Cubans do things in many beautiful ways.

“I have fond memories of watching my mother cook when I was growing up and I remember her always cooking fried rice.” Chico Chi, a DJ and producer with Chinese-Cuban origin. Both Chi’s father and mother were born in Cuba – their father in Havana and mother in Jaruco. Chi’s parents moved to America at an early age, and speak Spanish as well as Taishan, a Chinese dialect. Arroz frito went with them. On their mother’s version, Chi notes: “She makes an omelette with eggs instead of pounding it into the dish while everything else is cooking.”

Cuban-American cookbooks and arroz frito restaurants are another example of how different arroz frito can be based on family, people, and preferences. Variations of arroz frito can be found in Cuban favorites like 1979 cookbooks. Taste of Cuba: The Cookbook by Raquel Rábade and Marcella Kriebel’s more recent *Comida Cubana: A Cuban Culinary Journey.” On the other hand, some restaurants in the United States have recipes that choose to add lobster or crab tails. El Cochinito, choose a more moderate dish with shrimp, ham, pork, eggs, green onions and bean sprouts. Daniel Navaro, chef and current owner, learned the recipe for arroz frito from his abuela – former El Cochinito chef; Her father owns a restaurant in Cuba, but she didn’t grow up making this dish.

“My Abuela has a Cuban-Chinese friend that she met in Los Angeles when she opened the restaurant. She said he helped her refine fried rice. He helped source soy sauce. match and show her how to use the pan”. Navarro shared. “I can still remember my abuela looking over my shoulder and guiding me. Fried rice requires great attention to detail. You have to start with cold rice and all the cuts have to match. Your relationship with the pan and the burner takes time. Controlling the heat in every step is very important.”

Even when every step is done perfectly, seasoning is paramount: Navarro recalls buying a particular soy sauce at an Echo Park store. “And if they go out for any reason, she will take [arroz frito] out of the menu. Maybe that’s what keeps us together. “Today, El Cochinito uses the same recipe, the same sauce (Pearl River Bridge Gold Label Premium Dark Soy Sauce), and the same attitude when it comes to its menu. No sauce? No have arroz frito.

Cuban-American journalist Jorge Rodriguez-Jimenez explains that he has developed a completely personal version of arroz frito. Instead of sticking to a family recipe, he created his own after leaving his family in Florida. “I make mine as a Cuban and Japanese fusion, using black beans and Mahatma white rice. All you Cuban friends know about Mahatma,” he added, alluding to the regular long-grain Jasmine rice. Used to accompany dishes such as ropa vieja and lascivious arroz. He also adds Japanese seasoning, rice vinegar, and sometimes swaps ham for Spam. “That’s the great thing about food, it might suggest. Food is one of the most complex and ever-evolving parts of culture – you can see the influence of a globalizing world and the immigrant in dishes like arroz frito. It’s one of my favorite Cuban dishes that proudly represents my culture and heritage.”

In a way, the many people carrying the arroz frito speak to the heart of Cubanidad, especially for those of us living in America today. Like people from across the globe who have immigrated to and from the island, arroz frito is a dish made better by its varied additions. And it still exists. No matter the hardship, no matter the revolution or the challenge, it is still necessary.

https://www.salon.com/2021/12/24/cuban-chinese-arroz-frito-is-a-reminder-of-a-complex-past_partner/ Cuba-China frigate is a reminder of a complicated past

Bobby Allyn

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