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Samples of Cuban cuisine

The Cuban Food Festival, which is on till December 24 at Café Mercara, Chola Sheraton, offers Chennai-ites some rare yet simple dishes.


HER SUBJECT for her PhD is "Psychological effects of colour in architecture". But Tania Dearriba Romenidy Fleischhacker (who's studying at the University Polytechnic of Barcelona, Spain) has found plenty of time to introduce the cuisine of her native country to Chennai-ites. The result — a Cuban Food Festival, which is on till December 24 at Café Mercara, Chola Sheraton.

What do we know of Cuba besides Fidel Castro and his `Havana'? Let's find out. Talking cuisine, it is simple. There are no overwhelming, ultra sophisticated sauces French. It comes straight from the land, something of a `peasant' cuisine.

Sofrito that goes into black beans, stews, many meats and tomato-based sauces, has onions, green pepper, garlic, oregano and ground pepper quick fried in olive oil. The spices are garlic, cumin and oregano.


The fest dishes are chosen with the Indian palate in mind. So there is a haunting ingenuousness coupled with familiarity.

Tostones are nothing but double fried bananas. But believe me, they are nothing like our chips. With the garlic-olive oil dip ,it is simply yummm... Cubans have a thing about tubers. Our aravalli and chakkaravalli are Yuca and Boniato and appears on the table as finger food, soups, main course and desserts. The fritters, Cuban shepherd's pie with tapioca and vegetables and sweet potato pudding are scrumptious.

For more cultural education, there is Ropa Vieja with shredded beef. Served with fried yucca and congri, a mixture of black beans and rice, another typical ethnic specialty. Congri is also called Moors and Christians! While at it, try Mojito, which is said to be Hemingway's favourite drink. It is rum and lime juice liberally garnished with cilantro.

Tania's Cuban treat is an amalgam of Spanish, French, African, Chinese, Arabic and Portuguese flavours. But there is a small detail missing, Café Cubano — Cuban coffee that's supposed to revive even the dead. Never mind, stick a cigar into your mouth, sip Mojito and listen to some salsa.

MARIEN MATHEW

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