Latin Fusion: Can Cubans Really Get Along with Mexicans?
When I visit Miami, the American hub of all things Cuban, I don't see any Cuban fusion restaurants. The closest thing would be an upscale, Americanized Cuban eatery that serves up Kobe beef ropa vieja on white tablecloths and charges more than the yearly wage of an average Cuban refugee for the dish.
Cubans are a proud people, who have a long and delicious culinary tradition that is not often messed with. But in Houston we have so many varieties of Latin cuisines, cooks like to get creative and merge them together, turning out something new, exciting and oftentimes very tasty. So despite my traditionalist hesitation to combine platanos with tortillas or black beans with pico de gallo, I find that somehow Cuban/Mexican fusion works out. And not in spite of cuisine combination, but because of it.
Ask any of my Cuban friends to name one of their favorite dishes in town, and many of them will quickly shout out "Nachos Cubanos from El Meson." Crunchy blue corn tortilla chips are topped with refried black beans, a thick slice of sweet plantain, and melted white cheese. Topped with a slathering of sour cream and a pickled jalapeno, it's magical. Sweet and salty, soft and crunchy - never have exports from these countries gotten along so well.
Another example is El Rey's Cuban taco -- beef fajita meat, black beans, sour cream, and sweet plantains in a flour tortilla. These tacos are beyond scrumptious.