Culture

Here’s The Story About Ropa Vieja, The Most Delicious And Heavenly Food To Ever Come Out Of Latin America

There is nothing that is more quintessential to Cuban culture than ropa vieja. The dish is the national dish of Cuba and every Cuban family has their own recipe for this famous and popular meal. It can be served with rice and beans or rice and tostones or, really, anything because it is divine.

As part of the La Cocina series at we are mitú, Dariany Santana, the host of What’s Good In Your Hood, called her mom to learn how to make ropa vieja. It’s a sweet segment since Mother’s Day is right around the corner and, like all of us who moved away from home, Santana wants a little bit of home on Mother’s Day.

One of the most commonly told stories about ropa vieja is one of religion and miracle. The story goes that once upon a time in Spain, a poor man was struggling to feed his family. At the end of his rope, the man took his old clothes and put them in a pot with water and boiled the clothes. As the clothing cooked, the man prayed over the pot for food to sustain his family. What happened next is a miracle. The poor man opened the pot and where his clothes and water once were was a delicious and hearty meat stew. Ropa vieja translates to old clothes so the legend persists today about the most famous dish to call Cuba home.

The dish was created in Spain and historically the dish came to Cuba by way of Spanish conquistadors. More specifically, ropa vieja comes from the Canary Islands. When Spanish conquistadors started to settle in Latin America, they brought their favorite foods and items with them to feel at home far away from home.

Ever since ropa vieja became the national dish of Cuban, other variations have shown up throughout the Caribbean islands. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic both have their own version of ropa vieja. The differences in the variations are slight but they include ingredients that are most common for those islands.

The dish lends itself nicely to a vegan variation. Since it is shredded beef, you can replace the meat with jack fruit. The pods around the seeds perfectly imitate the shredded fibers of flank steak. When you are cooking the jack fruit, you can use different cooking tools and lesser cooking time to achieve the same texture and consistency. Instead of adding the jack fruit to the sofrito that is cooking, you can keep them separate and let the jack fruit start to fall apart then top the jack fruit with the sofrito when you are plating it.

For any Cuban, the taste, smell, and sound of this dish is something that immediate transports them to their childhood. It is a way for Cubans to share the most intimate and important piece of their culture with those they love and care for. It is also a way for Cubans to feel connected to their family even if they are living thousands of miles away. For those who fled the island, it is a way to stay connected with a home they were forced to flee.

Ingredients:

Beef:

  • 2 pounds of flank steak
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • salt to taste

Sofrito:

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 sweet peppers of different colors, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 package of achiote powder
  • 2 cups of olives, cut in half, and some of the juice
  • 1/2 cup cooking wine
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil

Directions:

Ropa Vieja:

  • Cut flank steak into cubes that are an inch and a half.
  • Add steak, onion, garlic cloves, cilantro, green bell pepper, cumin, and salt in a  pressure cooker.
  • Add enough water to just cover the steak and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, add garlic, onions, peppers, green pepper, onion, cumin, cilantro, bay leaf, and tomato sauce.
  • Simmer the sauce over the gentle heat until it starts to reduce by about a quarter and has a thick, soupy consistency.
  • Making sure the pressure cooker no longer has any pressure, remove the beef from the pressure cooker and add it to the sofrito.
  • Add the olives and cooking wine and cook for a few more minutes until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Using two forks, shred the beef int eh sofrito and mix well so everything is combined.
  • Serve hot with a side of white rice and black beans.

READ: Here’s How Cuba’s Tumultuous History Forced A Cuban Diaspora That Changed The World

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Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

Culture

Chicago’s Mi Tocaya Is Offering Up Free Mexican Homemeals For Undocumented Community

mitocaya / Instagram

Undocumented communities are being left out of Covid relief plans. Chef Diana Dávila of Mi Tocaya in Chicago is working to help undocumented restaurant worker in the time of Covid. Abuse of undocumented workers is rampant in certain industries and Chef Dávila hopes to offer some kind of help.

Mi Tocaya is a Mexican restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square that wants to help the community.

Covid-19 has devastated the hospitality industry with restaurants being hit exceptionally hard. Restaurants have been forced to close their doors for good as the virus dragged on with no decent relief plan from the federal government. As several countries financially support citizens to avoid economic disaster, the U.S. government has given citizens $1,800 total to cover 10 months of isolating and business closures.

Namely, Mi Tocaya is working to help the undocumented community.

Mi Tocaya, a family-run restaurant, is teaming up with Chicago’s Top Chefs and local non-profits Dishroulette Kitchen and Logan Square Neighborhood Association. The goal is to highlight the issues facing the undocumented community during the pandemic.

The initiative called Todos Ponen, is all about uplifting members of our community in a time of severe need. The restaurant is creating healthy Mexican family meals for those in need.

”We asked ourselves; How can we keep our doors open, provide a true service to the community, maintain and create jobs, and keep the supply chain intact by supporting local farmers and vendors. This is the answer,” Chef Dávila said in a statement. “I confidently believe The TODOS PONEN Logan Square Project addresses all of the above and can very well be easily implemented in any community. Our goal is to bring awareness to the lack of resources available to the undocumented workforce- the backbone of our industry.”

The initiative starts in February.

Mi Tocaya is offering 1000 free meals for local farmers and undocumented restaurant workers. The meals are available for pickup Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2800 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647. to make this happen, Mi Tocaya also needs your help.

The restaurant has teamed up with two nonprofits to make sure that they can scale their operation to fulfill their commitment. They are also asking for donations to make sure they can do what they can to help undocumented restaurant workers.

According to Eater LA, 8 million restaurant workers have been laid off since the pandemic started. Some restaurants have had to lay off up to 91 percent of their staff because of Covid, about 10 percent of those are undocumented. In the cities, that number is as high as 40 percent of the laid-off restaurant staff are undocumented.

“People don’t want to talk about the undocumented workforce, but they’re part of our daily routine in most restaurants,” Jackson Flores, who manages the operations of Mi Tocaya, said in a statement. “They are in the toughest position in the whole economy because they’re an invisible part of it. Restaurant worker advocacy groups have added the creation of relief funds to their agendas, but there have yet to be long-term changes in protections for undocumented workers. Without access to unemployment benefits and other government resources, this group is especially vulnerable.”

READ: Hands-Free Cholula Dispensers Have Become a Thing In Restaurants Because of COVID-19

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Trump Labels Cuba A State Sponsor Of Terrorism As His Own Supporters Face Similar Allegations

Things That Matter

Trump Labels Cuba A State Sponsor Of Terrorism As His Own Supporters Face Similar Allegations

Yander Zamora/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a move that is sure to complicate things for the incoming Biden administration, Trump has moved to put Cuba back on the list of nations that allegedly sponsor terrorism.

Obama had taken Cuba off of that list in 2015 and with four years to Cuba back on the list, many agree that Trump has simply put Cuba back on the list to make life difficult for President Biden.

The Trump administration has put Cuba back on the list of countries that “sponsor terrorism.”

With just days left in office, Trump has moved to label Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” in a last-minute move that is sure to complicate things for the incoming Biden administration.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified the controversial move which reverses Barack Obama’s 2015 decision to remove Cuba from the list after more than three decades – by accusing Havana of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists”.

Pompeo also alleged Cuba was engaging “in a range of malign behavior across the region”, highlighting its support for Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro who Trump has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow.

The controversial step places Cuba alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria as state sponsors of terror.

However, most officials agree that Trump’s claims about Cuba are bogus.

Many international observers – including U.S. allies – aren’t impressed by the administration’s claims that Cuba is sponsoring terrorism.

In an interview with The Guardian, Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, said “These are trumped up charges. Terrorism as an international definition is committing acts of violence against unarmed civilians intended to frighten the population. Cuba doesn’t do that. Yes, it represses its own people – but so does Saudi Arabia.”

Groups that favor greater U.S. engagement with Cuba criticized the announcement.

“There is no compelling, factual basis to merit the designation,” according to Ric Herrero, executive director of the Cuba Study Group, a Washington DC-based organization that supports engagement with the island. “Instead it appears to be another shameless, last-ditch effort to hamstring the foreign policy of the incoming Biden administration and set the stage for the next election in Florida, all at the expense of the Cuban people and relations between our countries.”

Many observers agree that Trump’s move is simply a gift to party hardliners in Florida, and likely a deliberate attempt to make life difficult for the incoming Biden administration who may wish to end deténte with Cuba.

Of course, Cuban officials reacted angrily to the announcement.

After the announcement, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted: “We condemn the US announced hypocritical and cynical designation of #Cuba as a State sponsoring terrorism. The US political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims.”

Reversing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s action would require the Biden administration to certify to Congress that there has been a fundamental change in leadership in Cuba and that the government is not supporting acts of international terrorism, has not for the previous six months and will not do so in the future.

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