Cuban cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African, Chinese, and other Caribbean cultures. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a blend of the several diverse cultural influences, A small but noteworthy Chinese influence can also be accounted for, in the Havana area. There is also some Italian influence. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions with them.
A Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a mixto, especially in Cuba is a popular lunch item that grew out of the once-open flow of cigar workers between Cuba and Florida (specifically Key West and the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa) in the late 1800s and has since spread to other Cuban American communities. The sandwich is built on a base of lightly buttered Cuban bread and contains sliced roast pork, thinly sliced Serrano ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard. In Tampa, Genoa salami is traditionally layered in with the other meats, due to influence of Italian immigrants who lived side-by-side with Cubans and Spaniards in Ybor City. Tomatoes and lettuce are available additions in many restaurants, but these are considered by traditionalists as an unacceptable Americanization of the sandwich. After assembly, the Cuban sandwich may be pressed in a groove-less panini-type grill called a plancha, which both heats and compresses the contents.
Ropa vieja is one of the national dishes of Cuba. It consists of shredded or pulled stewed beef with vegetables. In the Cuban cuisine of Miami, Florida, it is typical for ropa vieja to have a sweet undertone. While this is traditionally intended to be due to the use of fully ripe red bell peppers, it is common for recipes to include some quantity of sugar to achieve the correct level of sweetness in the finished dish.