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.
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.
In the Chowhound link, there was also a link to a good article
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. :(
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!
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.
re: Peter Cherches
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.