|Alternative name(s)||Cuban mix, Cuban pressed sandwich, mixto|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Region or state||Florida|
|Main ingredient(s)||Cuban bread, ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, sometimes salami|
|Variations||Tampa (w/ salami)
South Florida (w/o salami)
A Cuban sandwich is a variation of a ham and cheese originally created in cafes catering to Cuban workers in the early Cuban immigrant communities of Florida: Key West and Ybor City, Tampa. Later on, Cuban exiles and expatriates brought it to Miami where it is also still very popular. The sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on Cuban bread.
In April 2012, the "Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich" was designated as the "signature sandwich of the city of Tampa" by Tampa's city council.
As with Cuban bread, the origin of the Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a "Cuban mix", a "mixto", a "Cuban pressed sandwich", or a "Cubano") is murky and somewhat controversial. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, travel between Cuba and Florida was easy, especially from Key West and Tampa, and Cubans frequently sailed back and forth for employment, pleasure, and family visits. Because of this constant and largely undocumented movement of people and culture and ideas, it's impossible to say exactly when or where the Cuban sandwich originated.
It is believed by some that the sandwich was a common lunch food for workers in both the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba (especially in big cities such as Havana or Santiago de Cuba) and the cigar factories of Key West by the 1860s. Historian Loy Glenn Westfall states that the sandwich was "born in Cuba and educated in Key West".
The cigar industry in Florida shifted to Tampa in the 1880s and the sandwich quickly appeared in workers' cafés in Ybor City and (later) West Tampa, leading other historians to theorize that the sandwich as now constituted first appeared there Historian Andrew Huse states that "the old 'mixtos' coalesced into something more distinct – the Cuban sandwiches we know and love – an original Tampa creation."
By the 1960s, Cuban sandwiches were also common on Miami cafeteria and restaurant menus, as the city had gained a large influx of Cuban residents after Fidel Castro's 1959 rise to power in their native land. The Communist Revolution caused a wave of Cuban expatriates to settle in other locations as well, and they brought their culture and cuisine with them. Cuban sandwiches and variations thereof are now served in various Cuban exile communities in places such as New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and Puerto Rico, among others.
While there is some debate as to the contents of a "true" Cuban sandwich, most are generally agreed upon. The traditional Cuban sandwich starts with Cuban bread. The loaf is sliced into lengths of 8-12 inches (20–30 cm), lightly buttered or brushed with olive oil on the crust, and cut in half horizontally. A coat of yellow mustard is spread on the bread. Then roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, and thinly-sliced dill pickles are added in layers. Sometimes the pork is marinated in mojo and slow roasted.
The main regional disagreement about the sandwich’s recipe is whether or not to include salami. In Tampa, Genoa salami is traditionally layered in with the other meats, probably due to influence of Italian immigrants who lived side-by-side with Cubans and Spaniards in Ybor City. In South Florida, salami is left out. Mayonnaise, lettuce, and/or tomato are usually available options on Florida menus but are frowned upon by traditionalists.
When assembled, the sandwich can be toasted in a sandwich press called a plancha, which is similar to a panini press but without grooved surfaces. The plancha both heats and compresses the sandwich, which remains in the press until the bread surface is slightly crispy and the cheese is melted. It is usually cut into diagonal halves before serving.
A very similar and popular sandwich is the medianoche or "midnight" sandwich, so named because of the sandwich's popularity as a staple served in Havana's night clubs right around or after midnight. It contains the same ingredients as a Cuban sandwich but is smaller and is made on soft bread made from a sweet yellow egg dough, similar to challah.
The Mexican sandwich-like torta has a variation called "torta cubana" (Cuban torta), which includes a collection of different meats, usually all the ones available at the place where the torta is prepared.
References and bibliography
- "Sink teeth into quest for best Cuban sandwich" - The Miami Herald, 15 August 2010
- Andrew Huse. "Welcome to Cuban Sandwich City". Cigar City Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2.
- Three Guys From Miami (undated). "Sandwich Cubano / Cuban Sandwich". iCuban website.
- Linda Stradley (© 2004). "History of Cuban Sandwich, Cubano Sandwich". What's Cooking America website.
- Tampa names Ybor City-style Cuban as the city's signature sandwich - Tampa Bay Times
- Cuban Sandwich Wars Inflame Passions In Tampa And Miami | Florida Vacation, Tourism, Travel & Entertainment Information - VISITFLORIDA.com
- Damon Lee Fowler. "Love at first bite: A great sandwich". Savannah Morning News.
- Tampa claims the Cuban sandwich as its own, but Miami begs to differ - Tampa Bay Times
- Otto, Steve (24 October 2007). "Cuban Is Ours, Any Way You Try To Slice It". The Tampa Tribune. Archived from the original on 7 May 2009.
- "Cuban Bread: A History". Bread-Maker website.
- Sara Kennedy (14 August 2002). "Viva El Cubano". Creative Loafing Tampa.
- "Tampa history is traced in its sandwich" - The Tampa Tribune
- Enrique Fernandez (9 August 2007). "Our search for a good Cuban sandwich takes a surprising turn". The Miami Herald.
- Thomas C. Tobin (18 January 2003). "To each, his own sandwich". St. Petersburg Times.
- Houck, Jeff (6 Sep 2009). "Rebuilding the perfect Cuban". The Tampa Tribune.
- Stern, Jane and Michael (2009). 500 Things to Eat before It's Too Late and the Very Best Places to Eat Them. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-547-05907-5.
- Adam Rugg (11 August 2006). "Tampa Cuban Quest: La Teresita". Eat Foo.
- Cuban Medianoche Sandwich recipe | Sweet Midnight Sandwich
This dish and its origin are also mentioned in:
- Espinosa, Jack. Cuban Bread Crumbs. Xlibris Corporation. 2008. ISBN 978-1-4257-9678-5.
- Lastra, Frank, Ybor City : The Making of a Landmark Town. University of Tampa Press. 2006. ISBN 978-1-59732-002-3.
- Michael Segers (1999). "Hot Pressed Cuban, Hold the Dinosaur".
- Barry Popik (29 July 2006). "Cuban Sandwich; Medianoche Sandwich". Historical notes 1901-1966.
- Off The Broiler Weblog (30 November 2006). "Florida Dining: Latin American Cafeteria Restaurant".
- Off The Broiler Weblog (8 January 2007). "Florida Dining: The Cuban Sandwich Shop".
- Off The Broiler Weblog (2 June 2007). "Do It Yourself Cubanos".