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Cuba woos tourists with cuisine treats

China Daily | Updated: 2020-11-03 10:00
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A tourist has her temperature checked upon arrival in a hotel in Varadero, Cuba, on Saturday. ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI/REUTERS

HAVANA, Cuba-Luis Ramon Battle, who works as a chef at La Calesa Real Restaurant in Havana's historic downtown, has been creating new recipes as the country seeks to boost tourism by promoting its cuisine.

Having worked at a restaurant in China's Dongguan, Guangdong province, in 2015 for six months, the 50-year old honed his skills as a professional cook. "In China, I learned to better use soy sauce and ginger in preparing different dishes as well as to make bittersweet sauces," he said. "We have huge potential and many things to show the world."

All the airports in Cuba except in Havana have resumed operations. Most of the country, including the island's largest seaside resort of Varadero, is open to global travelers.

Eddy Fernandez, president of the Cuban Culinary Federation, said foreign visitors to the island would learn the resourcefulness of local chefs circumventing material shortages.

Hundreds of chefs from the Cuban Culinary Federation expect gastronomy can provide visitors with a sample of their culture, and help restaurants and hotels to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are creating recipes in line with international standards," said Fernandez. "Cuban cuisine can provide tourists with non-greasy, nonsugary, and low sodium dishes. We are also working to promote healthy eating habits."

The Cuban Culinary Federation's publisher won the top prize at the 2020 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for exploring the local culture of the Caribbean country through the diversity of its cuisine.

Tourists from Africa, Europe, and China enriched the local culinary scene with their ingredients and cooking skills.

Cuban authorities organize food festivals and culinary workshops that showcase both the history and attractions of the country's cuisine.

In 2019, Cuban cuisine was declared a National Cultural Heritage by the National Heritage Council of Cuba, which said "cuisine is part of the national identity".

Elite chefs

So far nearly 600 elite chefs have graduated from the Cuban Culinary Federation. They are working for the state and private sectors on the island.

The author of the book The Treasure of the Cuban Cuisine, senior chef Jorge Junco, is one of the graduates of the federation.

"Many of our fundamental dishes include pork, introduced in Cuba by Chinese migrants by 1850," Junco said. "We cook pork chop suey, fried rice, and Chinese soup, along with countless traditional recipes".

After being shut for more than seven months, most restaurants and eateries across the country have restarted on-site dining. They follow social distancing guidelines in keeping with COVID-19 health protocols. In early July, Cuba partially reopened its borders to foreign tourists.

The Caribbean nation announced the suspension of international flights as a precautionary measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus nationwide in late March.


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