Street food in Havana
Replies: 51 - Last Post: Oct 9, 2012 9:27 PM Last Post By: cuidate
Oct 8, 2012 7:55 AM
30I have never understood some peoples obsession with street food in Havana. I do eat it when in a hurry or when not up to spending much money, but it's really, really bad. And as for hygiene, there is no control, of course, some of those places are really dirty, in almost all of them they handle the food with the same hand that takes your dirty pesos. As for pizza, does anyone know anywhere on Planet earth where they make pizzas as horrible as in Havana street windows? There's a place on Aquila and San Lazaro in Barrio Colon, Centro Habana that is widely known as being the best for pizza in the area, and they serve some weird dough with sour cheese on top, it has nothing in common with a pizza except that it's bread and cheese. And that is the pizza at the best place in the area.
Never gotten sick from street food, but have been training my stomach for years. Next test will be swimming in the bay, Centro Habana section. But it's a game; you never know when it hits you.
Going to Havana and planning on exclusively or mainly surviving on street food sounds disgusting to me, and I'd rather wait half a year and save up money for at least one decent meal daily. Nothing wrong with a burger or 'pizza' late at night on Zanja, but eating street food more than once daily, I couldn't do that. And I would get really fat from it. Try to fnd any Havana street food with an ounce of nutrition in it. Tough task. It's all made up of bad dough, cheap cheese, Cuban produced overcooked spaghetti (When you cook spaghetti for 20 minutes it boils up and fills more and you cut down your expenses - forget about any Cuban haven heard the Italian expression 'al dente'), bad pork and chicken franks made from grinded chicken bone. Delicious.
No wonder you see so many fat Cubans. Way more than just 3-4 years ago. They're ging to have a serious weight problem within a few years.
Last thing: Whle they may claim the 'refresco' is made from boiled water, almost all is made from water straight from the tap. Tap water is of course the shortest way to the bathroom in Cuba.
PS: Marakas on O is not a paladar. While I don't think it's anything special at all, the pizza and spaghetti is of course one million times better than at any street window. I'll give it that much credit.
Oct 8, 2012 8:32 AM
Oct 8, 2012 1:42 PM
32Street Mango, sounds like a new clothing line for women...
There's a bigger agro on 19 e/ A y B. But the OP will be staying in Vieja or Centro, there are agros all over town, so those in Vedado are probably not that interesting to him. But wash your fruit with botted or boiled water and wipe dry with something clean. If you're so intent on living in Havana on nothing, good idea to mix your completely nutrition-and vitamin-free street food with some fruit. If there is something Cuba has of a high standard it is fruit and (some) vegetables. Some of those that beat their partners in most other countries are mango, papaya, pineapple and avacado - tomatoes on a lucky day.
Oct 8, 2012 1:57 PM
Oct 8, 2012 2:07 PM
34Your response is spot on, dontomas and echoes my experience and point of view as well, even down to the excellent agro on 19 y B, my favorite in Havana. Certainly well worth the short walk from the tiny place you refer to enram. A terrific selection of fresh fruits and veggies. Like most meats in Cuba, the meats have additional protein added by the flies who lay their eggs in them. If you have to get meat at any of the outdorr places, best to get there early in the morning. There are a lot of countries that have excellent street fare but Cuba is not even on the list.
The "best" street pizza in Cuba is still so greazzzzy that it will slide down your throat before you have a chance to chew on it.
I have purchased some fantastic little postries from time to time, and the peanuts are great, but even those are only the exceptions that prove the rule.
If you don't have a kitchen available to you then ask around for private kitchens and chefs. If you go with them to the agromercado you will be able to buy food for four for the cost of a bad meal in a paladar. If you can help supply them some stuff they would not otherwise buy for themselves, you can eat very well in Cuba.
Oct 8, 2012 2:55 PM
35I agree fully, scrape away the flies on the meat you buy in the agro markets and cook it well. Wash and peel fruits and try to stay away from uncooked vegetables, and tap water. These are my rules, and I spend weeks without stomach problems. I don't eat the pizzas, or any other food from street vendors. Once in a while, though, I do get grounded by diarrhea for unknown reasons, and sometimes it is really bad and painful. But never more really than that.
I suppose it is difficult to stay aseptic in Cuba, and all that hand shaking does not make it better. The bacterias from the last spell of cholera quickly spread to other provinces untill the authorities managed to control and stop it.
But I don't think that Cuba offers more health treats than any other tropical country, maybe even less.
Oct 8, 2012 4:30 PM
36Cuba is another world. Picture thousands of people on Malecón on a late humid August night during the carnival spending the entire day there drinking, shaking hands with everybody, dancing, sweating, urinating, scratching their onions... And then by the food stalls where they serve chicken and rice in cardboard boxes there's a huge plate of salt. Where everybody sticks their two or three fingers down to pick some up. Same plate for 15 hours, and probably the next day, and the next. 1000, 2000, 5000 fingers down there daily.
And all those people who don't even think twice about that salt, they are the same ones going nuts in their houses cleaning the floor every god darn day of the week. There can't be a pinch of sand of my floor, that's just disgusting, but I won't think twice about drenching my chicken in salt from the plate that the entire population of Marianao has had their hands, feet, tongue and scotum in...
That's where I am not yet Cuban and we are very different. I am content doing a quick floor wash once a week, but I'll never eat any Pollo Marianao.
Oct 8, 2012 4:47 PM
37#30 "I have never understood some peoples obsession with street food in Havana"
I can understand people yet to visit Cuba who have experienced the street food of say SEAsia and many other parts of the world expecting something similar. As you say boy are they in for a disappointment.
#33 "Would street rice be the stuff that gets spread on the autopista to dry then ? "
..no that's broken rice.
Oct 8, 2012 5:04 PM
38#30 and #36 - don't hold back. Sounds like you have a healthy respect for Cuban hygiene....
But I have to agree with you regarding the street food, and as John says, there is no comparison with other parts, particularly S-E Asia.
and I would back our mangoes, pineapples, papaya and avocado - along with those of México - against any I ate during the last two summers in Cuba. And don't get me started about the tomatoes. But yes, the guanábanas are fantastic :-)
Oct 8, 2012 5:26 PM
39I have to say that Cuban Avocadoes are the most amazing things I have ever seen. I come from a place where shelf life determines what variety of avocado you can buy and taste rarely runs parallel to that criteria.
In Cuba they are the size of a Nerf football and I have yet to cut into one and not find it perfect, and delicious. I eat a ton whenever I am there in season. I bring balsamic vinegar with them in mind. When is the season in Cuba? I have two avocado trees here but am limited to the smaller, frost-resistant varieties. I've got a Mexicola ("A" flowering) and a "Bacon" Avocado ("B" flowering) so they will cross-pollinate, but they ar the size of baseballs. The Mexicola has a skin so thin you eat it with the rest of the fruit.
By far the best street food I found in the parts of LA I have rambled was in Panama. SE Asia goes without saying.
Oct 8, 2012 5:39 PM
40Yes pelo we are very lucky here in Cairns because we have local growers of tropical fruit, and a local market where their produce is bought and sold. Southern México is the home of avocadoes but we are competitive. Cuban avos are fine but I am frustrated when there is nothing to go with - no lettuce, sad tomatoes, scarce little cucumbers, no olive oil, blah blah blah. No kalamata olives. No decent bread.
I could moan about Cuban food all day :)
Oct 8, 2012 5:43 PM
Oct 8, 2012 7:36 PM
42Do you really think anyone cares about your inner angst?
Just too salty for my taste.
I agree one cannot compare Cuba with Cairns, or most other places as well, but pretty much everything you mention I can find in Cuba. The proviso is that it's all seasonal, but it is all available within that caveat.
I was once disturbed that lemons are not yellow, tomatoes are not red and oranges are not orange, but if you give it half a chance, and know what to look for and where to find it, you discover that you can't tell a fruit by its cover. When what's inside is as tasty as their yellow, red and orange counterparts in other parts of the world, that should be what matters.
Papaya, Mango, Guayaba, and Mamey don't get any better anyplace I have ever been, and the variety of bananas and platanos is a wonder to behold. And anyone who suggest pepinos are not in great abundance and turgid and large in Cuba, needs to get out more.............jejeje.
Lots of olive oil and way too many olives. Supermercado 70 has a 50 foot aisle packed with all manner of them. The only oil I bring to Cuba is Sesame Oil. I even find apple cider vinegar with some frequency.
I never tried avocados with my dog, chef, because I'm too greedy, but his diet consists largely of boniatos and higado in Cuba and he's a beast.
Oct 8, 2012 8:41 PM
Oct 8, 2012 10:20 PM
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