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Oh me oh my, that is one meaty Cuban!!

May 28, 2010

For those in the know, those marvelous sandwich connoisseurs, the Sandwich Cubano is ambrosia redefined; an overload of protein designed to rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. It is a sandwich that I should have thoroughly researched before ordering it, because the Cubano is literally — meaty.

I first encountered this sandwich in 2007, a time in my life when I knew nothing about Cuban food and the concept of inhaling more meat than bread. As I tore the wrapper from the sandwich I quickly realised my stomach was about to do something nearly impossible; eating what looked life half a pig sliced up as pork and ham. Yes I could hear my cholesterol levels rising with each bite.

But to be fair the sandwich doesn’t only have meat. Inside is a complex arrangement of pork, ham, salami (depending on where you go), pickle, swiss cheese and mustard. All are painstakingly prepared then carefully layered in a specific order, toasted, sliced, wrapped and sent off on their merry way .

While the Cubano may have begun life as a simple working man’s lunch, it is the sandwich foodies quest for authenticity — the right combination of meats, the right layering of ingredients, and the right bread — that has attempted to elevate this humble meal to elitism.

by Averette via Wikicommons

The origins of the meaty Cuban Sandwich is controversial. Tampans claim it originated from within the cafés of Ybor, but Miamians believe its life began on their streets. Both can agree on the timing being around the turn of the century, and both can agree on the name — Sandwich Cubano.

I’ll stick with pulling out half the meat if and when I do reorder this, and personally, I don’t care what bread comes wrapped around it. Tortilla wraps taste just as good as Cuban bread.

by Cate

Perhaps I need to take a class in exotic foods so I can appreciate the sandwich. Three Guys offer some insights for newbies, well worth a read at I.Cuban

Finally a word of warning:  This sandwich is not to be eaten lightheartedly, on Christian religious days, and by those followers of specific religions – you know who you are.

Caffeinated Traveller

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100 Comments
  1. May 28, 2010 9:39 am

    There are very few folks who can make a good cuban. So, when you find one, stick with it!

  2. May 28, 2010 11:47 am

    OMG, that makes me so hungry right now! I’ve never had one but I’m tempted to try it.

  3. May 28, 2010 11:56 am

    I think my stomach just started crying when it saw the picture of that sandwich!! It looks so freakin good!!!

    http://www.restaurantreviewers.wordpress.com

  4. charskitchen permalink
    May 28, 2010 12:22 pm

    my friend used to make really good caban sandwiches, and i can tell you they’re not easy… it took me ages to learn how to do it!

  5. May 28, 2010 12:43 pm

    I was researching Key West and found out about how/why Cubans went up to Tampa. A guy named Vicente Martinez Ybor moved to Key West during the Cuban Revolution. He, like maaaaany Cubans made cigars there. I’ve read different reasons why he went up to Tampa – saturated market, not enough resources in a newly “civilized” Key West. Either ay, he and his many many factory workers went up north and clearly became a huge part of Tampa.

    I’d wager that Ybor City might have begun adding salami because the pork that is used traditionally is a heavily marinated pork (and it’s used in other Cuban dishes, it’s just not sliced up and it’s also served warm. It makes sense that it would be used in a sandwich. Leftovers right?) What *could* have started as a substitute (as the 3 guys site you’ve recommended states – thanks to the Italian population, became a hit and, thus, its own tradition, which I think is really cool.

    I’m pretty sure that Cuban sandwiches originate in Cuba and it’s probably a really old and traditional sandwich – like bologna and cheese for Americans (find the origin of that, right?). I think it was popularized when white Americans finally got a taste of it and coined it “the Cuban sandwich”. I makes sense that this sandwich would be dispersed throughout all of Florida’s Cuban areas, and goes back to a point in time that no one can recall. I’ve studied a few Caribbean islands and most of the people on islands used all of the meat of an animal in as many ways as possible. It’s not hard to imagine how a mish-mosh of pig meat made its way between two slices of bread, right? And man is it delicious.

    Sorry about the length of my comment.

  6. luvin26bein26random permalink
    May 28, 2010 12:44 pm

    hola

  7. May 28, 2010 12:59 pm

    Reading this at lunch time is torture, you should have tried writing this just before dinner, it nearly killed me.

    Victoria – thanks for the background, very insightful. You have given me some history I can file away for another post.

    I think the Ybor sandwich added salami as part of the Italian influence, but I may be wrong on that.

    Thanks for the comments, go forth and eat!

  8. May 28, 2010 1:10 pm

    Hi, I just stopped by after seeing this on the wordpress main page. food blogs are the most interesting thing, and they really do look good!

  9. May 28, 2010 1:12 pm

    Cate,

    Here are a few more ways to sample your sandwiche cubano:

    1. butter on both sides of bread, mustard on one side, mayo on other
    2. (no salami) – sorry
    3. a sweet bread
    4. on panini press
    5. wrapped in foil and baked

    Our family eats them for every year for Christmas. We cook a whole pig the night before and have the sandwiches the next day.

    Every way is sure to please.

  10. Lu2Ar permalink
    May 28, 2010 1:13 pm

    Not really for my taste though, but the shots are nice:D

  11. May 28, 2010 1:33 pm

    My tummy is literally rumbling as I look at these pictures…

  12. ajgago permalink
    May 28, 2010 1:37 pm

    i shouldn’t have checked wordpress today. now im craving a cuban.

    son tan delicioso!

  13. May 28, 2010 1:48 pm

    Thanks Carlos for the run down on how to make this sandwich.

    Lu2Ar – I’m hearing you, some like this type of sandwich and others – like me – not so keen. Too much animal in it.

    Cheers

    Cate

  14. May 28, 2010 1:57 pm

    Wow that looks fantastic! Yummy! Wish we had that in the UK!

  15. May 28, 2010 2:06 pm

    That looks soo good. Pigs have to be the best tasting animal.

  16. May 28, 2010 2:49 pm

    Being a vegetarian, I, of course, would not order that sandwich. But I can relate to a proper order of layering. It’s something I have spoke about for years. You pictures are lovely and I enjoyed reading your tale of the Cubano. I work with a lot of Cubans and I am quite positive they would have something to say about that sandwich. Thanks for sharing!
    VG

  17. May 28, 2010 2:55 pm

    LOVE Cubans, and that one looks seriously tasty. I know what I’m having for dinner tonight.

  18. May 28, 2010 2:59 pm

    i had one in miami near south beach. it was by far one of THE most amazing things i’d ever eaten in my life.

  19. May 28, 2010 4:13 pm

    Plough and Stars in Cambridge, Massachusetts has the best Cubano I’ve ever shoved in my face…just sayin’

  20. May 28, 2010 4:17 pm

    OMG that looks superb! Must find proper formula! Google is our friend.

  21. May 28, 2010 4:48 pm

    Nothing quite like a fabulous Cuban sandwich. Works wonders on teenagers. (Parents, too, along with strong black coffee.)

  22. May 28, 2010 4:49 pm

    YUM! My fave sandwich on the planet…in Miami they are everywhere and I am in Heaven 🙂

  23. May 28, 2010 4:54 pm

    Wow that looks amazing… completely salivating right now lol.

  24. May 28, 2010 4:55 pm

    Yum! Nom! Nom!

  25. May 28, 2010 5:13 pm

    That first picture is just sexy as hell. I want a Cuban now!

  26. May 28, 2010 5:33 pm

    This sandwich is a religion. Two of my favorite shrines to the sandwich are El Siboney and 5 Brothers Grocery, both in Key West.

    I’d argue with you on the tortilla being as good as Cuban bread, but I think you’re spot on with it being important how the sandwich is put together.

    Thanks for a good read, now I’ve got to get to Fla. where these things are done right!

  27. May 28, 2010 5:44 pm

    Jeremiah – thanks for including your secret, I won’t tell anyone.

    Omawarisan – can I say the tortilla makes this sandwich sit better in the stomach??

    I’m heading to Key West in the next few months, looks like this is one of the places to find a good Cubano.

    Vampiregran – how would a vegetarian style Cubano go I wonder?

    Again, thanks for your humorous comments, I’ve had fun reading them

    Cate

  28. May 28, 2010 6:47 pm

    That looks yummy.. MAY I HAVE ONE PLEASE?! =)

  29. May 28, 2010 7:00 pm

    I’m not a vegetarian at all, but I still like sandwich more ..’saldady’ ..
    After two bites, I’d probably pull it apart..
    Reminds me of pizza variations here in Australia.
    They come by names like ‘meatlover’ or ‘cavemen’.
    Each to their own I guess.

  30. May 28, 2010 7:12 pm

    Please! no salami OR American cheese like Kraft OR submarine/hoagy bread! Get the real ingredients. It does make a difference! Loved the article. I used to have them after the movies in a Havana cafeteria on 12th and 23rd in Vedado. As far as I know, it originated in Cuba, not in Tampa.

    Thanks!

  31. May 28, 2010 8:04 pm

    Oh my that creation is beautiful. I don’t know of any place that serves this kind of cuisine here in New Zealand. But boy, I think someone should start.

  32. vixstar1314 permalink
    May 28, 2010 8:49 pm

    Cool blog, what a interesting sandwich

  33. giovanna permalink
    May 28, 2010 9:11 pm

    eu gostária de ter um blog só meu

  34. May 28, 2010 9:15 pm

    Hi,

    I enjoyed reading your article, Hope you can give other good information.
    Please chekout my site : http://business-72.com/blog/

  35. May 28, 2010 9:35 pm

    It seems delicious!

  36. May 28, 2010 10:13 pm

    I love discovering great regional sandwiches like the one you’ve described here. I live in Chicago and we’re lucky to have two– the Chicago hot dog (best at The Weiner’s Circle, though many people swear by Hot Doug’s) and of course the beef sandwich (best at Al’s Beef– no negotiation allowed on that, as far as I’m concerned), both of which are Chicago-specific delicacies that can’t be found in their true glory anywhere else in these United States or anywhere else in the world. Strangely, I grew up in the Buffalo area and yet only recently discovered the glories of Buffalo Beef on Weck. Bottom line– sandwiches are awesome!

    I write a travel blog as well, at proofoflifetravel.wordpress.com. Less on food there, more on booze… 🙂

  37. May 28, 2010 10:50 pm

    OMG, that makes me so hungry right now! My friends and I all like cuban!!

  38. May 28, 2010 10:59 pm

    I love it! One of the things I miss about FL! I was in Miami 2 weeks ago & made a beeline to the Cuban cafe! Oh how I’ve missed it. Thank you for the pictures!

  39. lessofmimi permalink
    May 28, 2010 11:00 pm

    Funny, I was thinking that’s not enough meat. LOL. Skip the bread and you’re golden. Yummy!

  40. May 28, 2010 11:47 pm

    I like to eat a lot of meat.

  41. May 29, 2010 12:55 am

    Oh my God!!!! That is one heck of a Cuban Sandwich!A Cuban sandwich is actually one of my favorites.

  42. May 29, 2010 2:26 am

    nom.

  43. Songbird permalink
    May 29, 2010 2:49 am

    That is a serious sandwich!! Looks very good, although I think I might also prefer it wrapped in a tortilla… I have had cuban food before, used to go to cuban restaurant regualarly when I lived in LA, but have to say never envountered this big boy…. :o)

  44. May 29, 2010 4:41 am

    Hi:
    No se si puedo le llama una totrella o una bella comida.
    In total that’s awesome.
    Aziz

  45. May 29, 2010 4:56 am

    This post has really made me hungry. Thanks for sharing.

  46. May 29, 2010 5:01 am

    I am a sandwich lover but have to agree with you that there would have to be some trimming down on the meat levels. The technical question is do you trim each meat type so that you retain all the flavour? I would definitely want to do that and would no doubt end up messy but assume it would be worth it to keep the variety.

    Great post with loads of detail….

  47. May 29, 2010 6:04 am

    I would kill to eat that every day except when I’m hungover, as today. The pics are actually making my stomach sick. Although a great read and I would love to order one of those any time but today, as said.

  48. Nige permalink
    May 29, 2010 6:20 am

    Bang goes my diet after seeing that photo lol

  49. May 29, 2010 7:00 am

    That’s what I call meaty goodness 😛

  50. May 29, 2010 7:26 am

    ¡Hola a todos!

    i will suggest looking a bit further to find the origin of this sandwich. Mexico, I’d say.

    In Mexico, we do a disctintion between sandwich (made with industrialized sliced bread) and torta (made with a short kind of baguette). Mexican tortas are as delicate a specialty as common in our streets. They tend to be really stuffy and delicious. They all have names trying to relate their ingredients with a country, with more or less accuracy.

    There is the torta alemana (German), with sausage and bacon; the torta gringa, with cheese and roasted pork; the torta hawaiana, with ham and pineapple; the torta española (Spanish), with potatoe omelette; the torta suiza (Swiss), with different types of cheese; the Argentina, Toluqueña, Rusa, Texana and many others.

    Amongst all of them, the massive torta cubana is queen (I don’t say king because torta is female in Spanish): it is the biggest one, stuffed with ham, pork, sausage, Milanese steak, egg, white cheese, avocado, lettuce, cucumber, mayo and mustard… at least. It’s giant!

    Wikipedia in English affirms that the torta cubana is “inspired by the Cuban sandwich”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torta

    That might be the prevailing view in the US, as we can see in this New york Mag review, where they also state that “it looked like a Cubano times ten”. http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2007/06/taco_mixs_torta_cubana_breaks_1.html

    In the other hand, Spanish language Wikipedia asumes it is another Mexican torta http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torta_(M%C3%A9xico)

    Though I don’t know any scholar studies about the origin of the torta cubana, it seems to me that it fits perfectly into the Mexican tortas tradition, both for it’s ingredients and for the costume of giving national names to the tortas.

    Therefore, I put forward here the Mexican origin hypothesis for consideration.

    (And one way or another, I suggest you to try the Mexican one or any other Mexican torta, they are amazing!)

  51. May 29, 2010 10:16 am

    wow. that looks unbelievable!

    Ash
    http://permanentplastichelmet.com

  52. May 29, 2010 10:24 am

    I dunno. I admit that’s a good looking sandwich but any good deli in NYC makes a meatier sandwich.

  53. josephdavenport permalink
    May 29, 2010 11:04 am

    I LOVE Cuban Sandwiches. I get them whenever they’re on the menu. Up here in Michigan, you don’t really see the huge amounts of pork and ham that you have on that first sandwich pic. Still, they’re just as good.

  54. Prudhomme permalink
    May 29, 2010 11:07 am

    I’ve loved “Cubanos” for years here in NYC, especially in the Washington Heights neighborhood in upper Manhattan. Thanks for posting this and showing people this little-known famous sandwich!

    Nando

    http://www.cyanskies.com

  55. May 29, 2010 11:46 am

    Hmm… I’m a vegatarian.

  56. May 29, 2010 1:38 pm

    I am now starving.. tyvm!

    http://fataldoll.wordpress.com/

  57. May 29, 2010 1:40 pm

    I’m pretty sure that Cuban sandwiches originate in Cuba and it’s probably a really old and traditional sandwich – like bologna and cheese for Americans (find the origin of that, right?). I think it was popularized when white Americans finally got a taste of it and coined it “the Cuban sandwich”. I makes sense that this sandwich would be dispersed throughout all of Florida’s Cuban areas, and goes back to a point in time that no one can recall. I’ve studied a few Caribbean islands and most of the people on islands used all of the meat of an animal in as many ways as possible. It’s not hard to imagine how a mish-mosh of pig meat made its way between two slices of bread, right? And man is it delicious.
    +1

  58. May 29, 2010 3:12 pm

    I found your blog on Freshly Pressed and I am so glad I did! That sandwich looks amazing and I can’t wait to find some place in California that has one.

  59. May 29, 2010 3:13 pm

    Great Cuban Sandwich in a corner deli in Key West across from The Green Parrot bar bring the sandwich back to the bar and eat it while drinking ice cold draft beer – best lunch in the keys! In Little Havana in Miami try “Versalles” on 8th Street and you can’t beat “Puerto Sagua” in South Beach-Miami Beach. Enjoy. Geat blog Saludos, Alejandro.

  60. May 29, 2010 3:24 pm

    Being Mexican and spending the bulk of my childhood in a Cuban house, the torta and the Cuban sandwich are two very different things.

    The sandwiches pictured above are of a heavy-meat variety, the ones I was prepared at home growing up consisted of less meat, and the ham was replaced with sliced turkey on most occasions. One side was spread with butter, the other with mustard, pickle slices, pieces of mozzarella or a similar cheese, some meat, all on Cuban rolls which are similar to tortas or bolillos but lighter in texture. The sandwiches were then pressed with a heavy cast iron sandwich press or foil-wrapped brick that had been preheated in an oven to toast the bread slightly, melt the cheese a little, and make the sandwich easier to eat by compressing it. No tortilla or wrap can ever compare to the toasted roll, in my opinion. It’s still my favorite.

    I learned a lot about the origin of Cuban food growing up, because I liked to hear Mama talk about the way it was prepared when she was a girl in Cuba, before fleeing the revolution in her 20’s. She told me more than once that her mother prepared them for her when she was a child as well, which indicates that the Cuban sandwich did in fact originate in Cuba and came to the US with the refugees fleeing the country later, and was improved on here in various Cuban communities in Florida and elsewhere, eventually spreading to Mexico, where they created a torta inspired by the Cuban sandwich.

    Stephanie – this makes sense hailing from Cuba and being reinvented in the US like many other dishes. Would love to have been around your table when you grew up, no doubt your mother’s stories will make for a great book.

    Thanks for sharing

    Cate

  61. May 29, 2010 3:36 pm

    Carlos has it right… that’s the way to do a Cubano. The one in the foto has a bit too much meat to be a traditional Cubano. The defining characteristics of this sandwich are actually the thinly sliced pickle and mustard. The different types of pork are also important, but you could get by with just one of them, in my opinion. I posted a pic of my favorite version of this sandwich here:
    http://theproteusexperiment.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/cubano-delicioso/
    The sandwich is from a restaraunt called Havana, in Walnute Creek, CA.

  62. May 29, 2010 3:37 pm

    Looks great!!! And I also love Coffee.

  63. May 29, 2010 3:55 pm

    Right a little too much meat. I have not come across one that doesn’t have less, but am looking forward to the day when I actually do.

    I’m amazed at the response I’ve had from this post. It never occurred to me that a simple sandwich could generate so much opinion – and good ones at that. The comments are great, I’m learning a lot about Sth Florida, Cuba and people’s love for simple food.

    Cate

  64. May 29, 2010 6:56 pm

    That looks godly! And I had to find your post exactly when I’m hungry, go figure xD, I think I’ve seen a small Cuban restaurant nearby, I have no choice but to drop by and see if they serve that monster, man I’m drooling D:

  65. goldenpast permalink
    May 29, 2010 7:25 pm

    looks good!

  66. May 30, 2010 12:02 am

    Yumbo sandwich!!!
    Beats the plain-azz chicken sandwich I am eating right now.
    Cuban food is muy caliente. I wish we had a Cuban-eatery presence over here in Australia. We may have all of the ingredients required to a make a great sandwich like that over here, but you’d agree, it’s the way that’s made and put together that’s the difference. I will just have to wait until I come back to the States to have one. The best ones are made there, hands down.
    Love your life Cate.

  67. May 30, 2010 1:10 am

    Wow. So… delicious! I’m hungry right now.. :p

    I’m interested in how to make the best cuban.

  68. May 30, 2010 3:01 am

    That looks delicious, I want one now!

  69. May 30, 2010 4:45 am

    This looks gross o.o

  70. Josef permalink
    May 30, 2010 7:13 am

    Dude, I am soooo jealous.
    I haven’t had a decent Cuban Sandwich in years.

    My favorite cuban sandwich has extra pickles and loads of shredded cabbage
    yum yum

  71. May 30, 2010 12:39 pm

    First of all, YUM! second of all, I love the concept of your blog. Hope it’s alright if I add you to my blogroll 🙂

    • May 30, 2010 5:58 pm

      Thanks and sure go ahead and add me to the blogroll.

      Again, thanks people for your comments , hope you enjoyed this post and have managed to force yourself away from the picture.

      Cate

  72. trcjr1975 permalink
    May 30, 2010 3:52 pm

    That is one good looking sandwich right there.
    I have to see what all the fuss is about these style sandwiches.

  73. amarjandu permalink
    May 30, 2010 6:12 pm

    the title just throws me off. hahaha

  74. May 30, 2010 6:53 pm

    That’s a serious sandwich there!

  75. May 30, 2010 7:07 pm

    That picture makes my mouth water. It has been years since I have had a true cuban. That is one of things I miss about Florida.

  76. May 30, 2010 8:08 pm

    isso é tortura para quem esta de dieta……………..bahhhhhhhh

  77. May 30, 2010 8:21 pm

    OMG your blog has made me completely ravenous! It’s 01:15 here in London and I’ve got no bread, meat or vegetables for that matter to replicate this sandwich :-(. I may have to hit the sack soon to avoid munching on the cardboard box perched on my table. Loving the blog! cupcaketreatslondon.wordpress.com

  78. May 30, 2010 9:35 pm

    I’m going downstairs to make a Cuban right now!

  79. May 31, 2010 12:28 am

    look good, hungry!!

  80. shreya permalink
    May 31, 2010 2:01 am

    hi….this blog is one of the best amongst all the others i have ever read….good work…keep it up!!!!!!!

  81. May 31, 2010 2:04 am

    great……………………………………………………

  82. May 31, 2010 4:29 am

    Fascinating stuff!
    As always with a sandwich of this size, the design needs to take into account the fact that you have to eat it without spilling half of it down one’s front.
    It looks just about possible due to the absence of tomatoes….

  83. E. McQuim permalink
    May 31, 2010 4:56 am

    It’s amazing how many human health, environmental, social, and moral problems are wrapped between those two slices of bread.

  84. May 31, 2010 6:46 am

    It look yummy. I love cuban sandwich, it’s so rich and generous.

  85. Nina J permalink
    May 31, 2010 9:57 am

    ok….now I’m really really hungry!

  86. May 31, 2010 11:39 am

    “Hmmmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, tasty!”

  87. May 31, 2010 6:45 pm

    Just had a look at your photos of the Malaysian Tea Plantations…. Amazing!!
    I’m not a coffee drinker, but love tea and am incredibly fussy about how it’s presented and served (as I’m sure you would understand).
    Have a look at my post entitled “Breakfast in Brighton” and you’ll see my Tea fussiness in full… 🙂

  88. June 1, 2010 12:29 am

    Makes me want to eat Vuban Sandwich.. I really love this huhuhu… delicious!!!!

  89. June 1, 2010 9:12 am

    I love me a Cuban sandwich! Whenever I can get up to Miami, I look forward to the coffee (buchito), the sandwich cubano, and a good barbecue place. Great article!

    • June 1, 2010 3:17 pm

      I guess Miami is your home away from home or home?

  90. June 3, 2010 8:40 am

    OK… after looking at it, and admiring its form, all I want is a cigar!

    • June 3, 2010 9:55 am

      LOL! Hilarious, how about a cafe cuban packed with sugar to go with the cigar?

  91. June 10, 2010 1:50 pm

    Wow, I really shouldn’t have read this before lunch. SO HUNGRY!

    Thanks!
    http://afscience.wordpress.com

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