20 Foods And Drinks That Take Caribbean Latinos Back To Their Childhood
For Caribbean people, there is something so intoxicating about our food. The food of our islands of origin make an Caribbean’s knees buckle and mouth water. Being in the American diaspora can look very different depending on where you are in relation to the Caribbean. South Florida and New York are filled with grocery stores, bodegas and shops carrying all of the food products that make Caribbean food what it is.
For those Caribbean descendants living in other parts of the U.S., finding your Goya products can be tricky. Some times it is just easier to learn the recipe and make things like sofrito yourself. Regardless, there is just something about the food that nourishes the body and soul.
Mofongo is one dish that every Puerto Rican will swear to be the best dish in the Caribbean.
Honestly, plantains of any variety will make an islander physically drool. For mofongo, green plantains are fried and smashed in a pillón with some variety of meat or seafood. It tastes better when you eat it straight from the wooden pillón.
Pasteles, i.e. more plantains.
While mainland Latino countries use masa for their tamales, Puerto Ricans and the Dominicans use plátanos verdes y calabazas along with a pound of sofrito. They’re wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks but are equally as cherished around the holidays.
Obviously coquito is a major staple around the holidays.
Speaking of holidays, it ain’t one until an abuelita or two brings in a gallon of coquito, Puerto Rico’s version of eggnog. You know how, if you’re Mexican, seeing holiday garland makes you need champurrado? Es lo mismo con coquito for Puerto Ricans. Starbucks can’t replicate that no matter how hard they try.
Cafecito isn’t cafecito if it’s anything but Café Bustelo.
Cubans and Puerto Ricans alike will not submit to any other type of caffeine. It’s beneath us. Except Cafe La Llave if you’re in a pinch.
Even this pic of pastelitos de guayaba will make any islander drool on their phones.
When someone shows up to your fiesta carrying a cardboard box, there is nothing more precious you could hope for than some fresh Cuban pastelitos. Puff pastry, sweet cream cheese and guava make the world go round.
As will a box of pan de bono.
Piping hot pan de bono is like bringing lumps of gold to dinner. The tapioca based cheesy bread makes America’s grilled cheese look like trash.
Aborrajados compete hard for the center stage.
To be fair, these originate from Colombia, but they include plantain as a base so therefore, I’m salivating. If there is a banana involved, the tropical isla in me is dancing.
No Caribbean food list is complete without a classic Cubano.
If you grew up in a Cuban household, you know the power this unassuming sandwich. The pork, mustard, pickles and buttered Cuban bread pressed on a hot griddle is everything your weekends were made of.
Did I already mention plantains?
Well, you don’t have to go boiling and mashing and prepping plantains for hours on end (see: pasteles) to make an islander drool. Just cut up a peeled green plantain, fry, press and fry again, baby.
Bacalao con mojo? That’s a double winner.
We’re islanders. Fish is going to happen and a lot of lime juice is going to happen on top of that. Plus, we always have garlic breath because it is a staple in most of our foods. Bring on the mojo.
Sofrito is the base for everything holy about Caribbean food.
It takes a while to make but it is so worth the hard work you have to put in. It is the base of so many different foods and adds a very delicious and culturally important taste to their dishes.
Picadillo was for dinner almost every night.
You wouldn’t going to eat it without half a jar of banana peppers on top. Plus, it’s a vehicle for rice, which is just too obvious a salivary trigger to even list here.
Pero, let’s talk about yucca, fam.
I grew up on this when I lived in Miami, but since jetting off further into the diaspora, it’s hard to come by. Yucca fries are la casada perfecta of my identity as Latina-American. It’s the food I would choose to eat forever if someone made me.
The empanadas are also something to admire.
I don’t even know what these are called, but I know I grew up on them at every extended family gathering. Folks would divide and conquer their local panaderías and we would feast.
Mashed Yucca is nothing to snuff at.
While my assimilated American self is here for yucca fries, the jóven in me longs for mashed yucca at the Thanksgiving table. All that olive oil and garlic is the key to a happy (albeit single) life.
Croquetas are life-changing.
The only way I know how to eat these is a dozen at a time fighting to the death against my cousins and brothers to stuff my face to the max. It’s a struggle because I still do that even though there is zero competition and a very full gordita belly para cuidar.
Ropa Vieja is that old-school love.
An actual national dish of Cuba and honorary dish of Puerto Rico. The shredded beef is in a sofrito sauce that is sweeter than most other dishes and it’s smell will attract islanders like a moth to a flame.
Flan de coco, man.
As far as I know, every other one of my Boricua family members cannot physically do dairy (but they do it anyway to the horror of anyone having to breathe the same air). Maybe that’s why our flan is made from coconut milk. Maybe it’s because we’re from a tropical paradise of coconut trees. Who can say which came first?
And of course, arroz con leche.
This dish came from our invading nation of Spain, but Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic make it with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. Plus, the raisins are soaked in good Puerto Rican rum.
You don’t have to go to the mother island to make a Puerto Rican, Dominican or Cuban salivate though.
Whip out a Kern’s Nectar of any variety and we’ll be talking you up and down until we can have a sip of that tropics-infused sugar water. After all, all this food makes us salivate for home and sometimes that feeling of nostalgia (on or off brand) is all we need to hit the spot.
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