Are you the sort of person who likes a bit of adventure when they eat? This is easiest to do while taking a vacation, and particularly when you brave the street food on offer in various cities around the world.
Perhaps you’ve eaten a deep-fried grasshopper in Thailand (spoiler alert: They’re crunchy). Maybe you’ve selected a live snake from a tank in Vietnam, before it’s killed and cooked and brought to your table.
Maybe you chose one of those giant steaks in Texas that seemed to be at least half a cow.
You can sometimes get it for free if you eat it in a certain amount of time (which is usually about half the time you’ll need to spend sitting on the toilet afterwards). Food in Havana (and food in Cuba in general) used to have a bit of a bad reputation. Most of the restaurants were operated by the government and the food was… well… some people might not consider it to be food.
Things have changed in recent years and it has become much easier for Cubans to open restaurants, cafes, and food carts. The culinary scene in Havana has come a long way, very quickly.
Since eating street food can be one of the highlights of a trip, it’s time to look at the street food you really need to try in Havana (and what needs to be avoided). Many of the street vendors don’t even give their business a name, and their hours and location will vary.
So it’s really about making a choice from whatever happens to be around when you’re hungry.
Going Coco for Coconut
It’s a tropical island, so it’s probably not such a shock that coconut features heavily in some of the awesome food in Cuba you need to try. Many street vendors will sell the coconut itself, with the top of the nut hacked off.
You then drink the deliciously sweet milk, and can scrape the flesh out. Yum! You will see a lot of vendors selling these on the beaches, so no, that guy didn’t bring a whole bunch of coconuts to the beach.
You can also try coconut pie. It’s not like a traditional pie (with a filling), and is more like a pastry where sweet shreds of coconut flesh have been baked into it. They are super cheap and filling.
You will also enjoy coconut in one of the many cocktails on offer later in the evening.
Let’s Get Corny
As if the temperature wasn’t hot enough in Cuba, you will see street carts and small stalls with gigantic pans of boiling water. This is for sweet corn (on the cob), and if you can stand the heat, it’s an excellent choice when it comes to food in Havana.
The corn is dropped into the water for a few minutes, and then it’s ready to eat. It’s one of the healthier options for food in Havana, but you can make it less healthy by asking for it to be covered in butter. Don’t feel guilty.
You’re on vacation!
Some visitors aren’t as exotic with their eating habits as others, so you will find a whole bunch of street stalls and small restaurants offering US style hamburgers and hotdogs.
These are almost always a disappointment, something that would make Ronald McDonald cry and mess up his makeup.
These US burger imitations have enough grease to make you feel like you’re having a heart attack, but there is an awesome authentic style of Cuban burger to try. The Hamburguesa de Cerdo is a basic pork burger that is blackened on the outside and still a little pink on the inside, which is not how most people are used to eating pork, but it’s a taste sensation.
The pork is served on a soft (slightly sweet) roll with your choice of sauce and vegetables. It looks like a regular burger, but tastes like heaven. You will be grilling all your pork burgers to medium rare when you go home.
The Sandwich: Food in Havana to Avoid
You want something quick and easy where you can recognize the ingredients. So you might be tempted by one of the many places selling sandwiches, all beautifully piled up in a glass cabinet. Avoid this temptation.
The meat can often be barely considered as such (it’s manufactured meat of fairly low quality). The sandwiches are made throughout the day and are just left there until they’re sold. They might have been sitting in their glass cabinet since the day before.
So unless you want food poisoning, those non-freshly made sandwiches are something to avoid when it comes to food in Havana.
There’s so much on offer in the city to tempt your belly, so why would you want a boring sandwich anyway?