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Cuban Chinese Cuisine

rworange Oct 1, 2006 01:55 AM

Looking up for information on a different Cuban dish, I came across this information about the history of Chinese food in Cuba.

http://www.agentofchaos.com/ic/cuban.html

Further Googling turned up that many Cuban Chinese migrated to NY and there were some Cuban Chinese restaurants that seem to be phasing out as the generation dies out. From my understanding, there is no fusion, just restaaurants that have a Cuban menu and a Chinese menu. Here's a little of a recent discussion on the NY board.

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/322895#1851403

In the Chowhound link, there was also a link to a good article
http://www.gothamgazette.com/citizen/...

  1. Gary Soup Oct 2, 2006 07:54 PM

    The New York Cuban Chinese seem to be slowly disappearing. Based on my experience with the food at la Caridad, there probably isn't much reason to lament its demise other than nostalgia.

    According to Cheuk Kwan's flim "On the Islands" (part of a series on Chinese Restaurants in the diaspora) it has completely disappeared from Cuba itself, unlike Trinidad where Trinidad-Chinese food is still thriving.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gary Soup
      c
      chocolatetartguy Oct 3, 2006 12:10 AM

      Thanks for the spelling correction. I googled La Caridad and it seems to be one of those places that you either love or hate, like Saigon Sandwich Shop or Tu Lan. I returned to La Caridad on multiple NYC visits into the early 90's and thoroughly enjoyed the roast pork, black beans, plantanos and sliced avocado. I still remember what I had after almost fifteen years.

      1. re: chocolatetartguy
        Gary Soup Oct 3, 2006 12:45 AM

        I was talking about the Chinese side of the menu, not the Cuban side.

        I like both Saigon Sandwich and Tu Lan, BTW.

        And I wasn't aware that I had corrected anybody's spelling....

        1. re: Gary Soup
          c
          chocolatetartguy Oct 3, 2006 01:25 AM

          I never tried the Chinese side. You spelled La Caridad correctly. I really meant thank you for getting it right because I remembered it incorrectly.

    2. rworange Oct 2, 2006 07:22 PM

      So, uh, I suppose Asia de Cuba in SF, didn't take its inspiration from these restaurants ...

      http://www.chinagrillmanagement.com/a...

      1. c
        chocolatetartguy Oct 2, 2006 07:15 PM

        I'm told that Le Carridad on Broadway near Zabar's is still going strong. I used to eat Cuban-Chinese there in the 80's and my impression was that there was some Chinese influence to their Cuban specialties. They were good enough that I never went looking anywhere else for Cuban-Chinese. I would have to say that I preferred it to Victor's on Columbus.

        1. MikeG Oct 2, 2006 06:52 PM

          No, _started_ HS...

          1. MikeG Oct 2, 2006 06:48 PM

            Yes, "comidas chinas y latinas" is all but, but not 100%, a thing of the past. It got too depressing, trying all of them looking for the sort of thing I remembered, but there may still good comidas latinas anyway, somewhere out there. I think the comidas chinas is probably about as good as you expect from deep-fried wings places uptown - truly scary.

            I graduated from HS in the late 70s, so I only caught the latter part of the act when I was paying any real attention but the ones I knew (though no longer by name) were the ones on Broadway in the upper 90s, but they stretch from about 86th St. almost up to Columbia, on Broadway and Amsterdam, not so much on Columbus. They were once about as ubiquitous there as Starbucks is now.;)

            1. p
              Peter Cherches Oct 2, 2006 05:57 PM

              I never once tried Chinese food at any of those places. One of the survivors, Nueva Rampa, is across the street from where I'm taking classes, so I'll give it a try.

              In the old days (the 70s for me) the two best I knew were Mi Chinita & Asia de Cuba, both on 8th Ave. in Chelsea, but there was also a great one on 8th Ave. around 55th (replaced by an office building); I think it had Castillo in the name.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Peter Cherches
                jen kalb Oct 2, 2006 07:37 PM

                Mid-70s there was a chain of these places, Asia de Cuba, Victoria de Cuba, etc. - I remember best one in Jackson Heights and one on 8th in the 50s - used to go to that one a lot. there were a string of lesser places up and down the UWS - of which my favorite was Tacita d'Oro, which I believe is still there on broadway, nr 100 St. La Rampa on 14th St (still there I believe?) was another place we went for a basic fix. These were primarily chinese cooks cooking hispanic food for a hispanic audience (my surmise is that the chinese are innovators in many countries they arrive in, bring in a restaurant culture and rapidly adjusting to the local foods and tastes) I always ordered hispanic food in these places - ropa vieja, chicharrones de pollo (the nice juicey dark meat kind with bone, please), squid%rice, masitas fritas - fried pork chunks,, sweet plantains and the great weekend special, the roast pork with garlic sauce, yuca and arroz moros y christianos and, in some places, the "sopa china especial" like a wonton soup with beansprouts, pork and a poached egg. Even though the food was hispanic, we have always felt that it was filtered through a chinese sensibility - dishes like ropa vieja, too, are more like stir fries.

                Since the Chinese diaspora was not limited to Cuba, there should in theory continue to be this general type or restaurant popping up, as Chinese entrepreneurs follow their immigrant clientele. One of the best places of this type I remember was dominican-chinese - spicier than the cuban variety. As I may have mentioned before, there are several "comidas chinas" places on 5th Ave in sunset park - a version of this cooking might still be sampled there.

                1. re: jen kalb
                  p
                  Peter Cherches Oct 2, 2006 07:50 PM

                  Jen, I'd be interested to find a Trinidadian-Chinese place if one exists. I loved the curried fried rice I had at a place in Port of Spain.

                  1. re: Peter Cherches
                    Woodside Al Oct 2, 2006 09:34 PM

                    I believe there's one over on Flatbush Ave. near Erasmus Hall and the old Loew's theatre.

                    In Woodside there's a strange little Chinese BBQ place with a Spanish speaking Chinese staff and a few Peruvian dishes on the menu.

                    1. re: Woodside Al
                      Gary Soup Oct 2, 2006 09:51 PM

                      Peruvian Chinese is something else again. Chinese food somehow was a better "fit" with Peruvian than with Cuban and the two blended more than Chinese food did with Cuban. Lomo saltado, which is almost Peru's National dish, is considered by many to be a Chinese invention.

                      1. re: Gary Soup
                        Sam Fujisaka Oct 3, 2006 05:17 PM

                        Chinese food in Peru is good (and a good fit as you say), atrocious in Colombia.

              2. Robert Lauriston Oct 2, 2006 05:11 PM

                I've heard that the "chinas comidas" places that used to be common in parts of New York are extinct.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  rworange Oct 2, 2006 05:21 PM

                  In the chowhound link in the OP, there's mention of a few.

                2. MikeG Oct 2, 2006 05:08 PM

                  Oh, yeah, I meant that the Spanish they spoke was native, presumably learned in some sort of school as well as spoken in society at large, if not perhaps with their grandparents at home. Much the way it goes with Chinese immigrants here, with English instead of Spanish. By the time I was around and paying attention, the original guys were already well into late middle-age, and their Spanish was definitely better than their English!

                  1. p
                    Peter Cherches Oct 2, 2006 02:29 PM

                    Mike, I remember places in NY like Mi Chinita being trilingual - the staff spoke Cantonese with each other, Spanish with the Latino customers, and English with me.

                    http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                    1. MikeG Oct 2, 2006 01:17 AM

                      Fusion no, but the Cuban was filtered through a different sensibility (like Straits Chinese food or particularly ethnic Chinese Vietnamese food). For that matter, I guess the Chinese was filtered too, but through a typically Europeanized/Americanized one - nothing special there, in concept if not occasionally in execution, anyway.

                      But these places were always way more latino than chino - the Chinese owners/workers spoke (native) Spanish (and their kids speak about as well as immigrant latinos' kids), people (men mostly) used them as neighborhood coffee shops (and a few older guys still do.)

                      So yeah, a very interesting phenomenon, but really, all but completely historical at this point. That original generation retired a while ago, and even most of their middle-aged children left a long time ago, as rents rose, their customers moved on and the neighborhoods changed dramatically around them. As a collective group, they didn't really survive the 80s. The few left being run by the youngest generation are just kind of imitating themselves at this point and the results usually aren't very pretty. :(

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