Ropa vieja

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Cuban dish of ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base), black beans, yellow rice, plantains and fried yuca with beer.

Ropa vieja (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈ ˈβje.xa]; "old clothes") is known today as one of the national dishes of Cuba, but originated in Spain[1] and is popular in other parts of Latin America as well as the Philippines.

The dishes origins appear to have first arisen among the Sephardic Jews of the Iberian peninsula,[2][3] as a slow-cooked stew that was prepared to be eaten over the course of a traditionally observed Shabbat, a kind of cholent.[4][5] Eventually this dish spread to North Africa and to the Canary Islands of Spain.[6][7]

The dish is believed to be have brought to the Americas by immigrants from the Canary Islands and was first reported to have been cooked in Cuba in 1857 but today is well known as a Cuban national dish.[8][9]

The dish normally includes some form of stewed beef[10] and tomatoes with a sofrito base.[11] Other components of the dish vary by region.

Regional variations[edit]

  • Canary Islands - Ropa vieja is served with both garbanzo beans and potatoes[9][7] Some versions of the dish in the Canaries include other meats including chicken and pork.[citation needed]
  • Colombia - the dish is known as both "ropa vieja" and "carne desmechadca" and is often served with rice, fried plantains, or arepas.[12]
  • Cuba - ropa vieja is well known as a national dish (most often served with rice and black beans), but famously was off the menu of many ordinary Cubans for a time [6] during the Special Period of Cuban history, after the fall of the Soviet Union. While some Cubans improvised, substituting lamb for beef during this time [13] or made special efforts to find beef to make the dish,[14] the dish became commonly available in Cuba again, starting in 2010 with the advent of independent and legal paladares in 2010.[13] Ropa vieja is especially popular among Cuba's Jewish community.[15]
  • In Nicaragua the dish is called carne desmenuzada, or less commonly ropa vieja. It is made with green bell peppers, onions, garlic, salt, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and mustard. It is usually served with white rice or alongside gallopinto (national dish of Nicaragua), and fried cheese, fried or boiled plantains.[16]
  • In The Philippines ropa vieja includes fish sauce and is served with jasmine rice[6]
  • Spain - ropa vieja is a make-do kind of dish in which a cook would stew leftovers in a sofrito base.[9] Chickpeas are almost included in the Spanish version of this dish.[17]
  • Venezuela - Like its neighbor Columbia, the dish is called both "ropa vieja" and "carne desmechada."[18] The dish is often served as a filling for arepas[19] as well as other dishes,[11] and is commonly prepared using the herb annatto to provide deeper color.[20] Ropa vieja is also famously a component of the plate known as the Pabellón criollo.[20][21]
  • Other regions - The dish is popular in Honduras,[22] Puerto Rico,[23][24] and other parts of Latin America, as well as among immigrant communities in the USA.[25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sierra, Lisa & Tony "What is Ropa Vieja" The Spruce Eats (July 28, 2021). Accessed August 10, 2021.
  2. ^ "The Ropa Vieja story: the National Dish of Cuba". Revolución de Cuba. June 23, 2015.
  3. ^ "Ropa Vieja" Jewtina (March 12, 2020). Accessed August 12, 2021.
  4. ^ "Ropa Vieja: Celebrating Cuba's independence" Jirie Caribbean (May 5, 2021) Accessed August 12, 2021.
  5. ^ Kaufman, Sheilah "Dafina (Moroccan cholent (Sabbath stew)" Accessed August 12, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Scott, Leah "A history of ropa vieja, one of Cuba's most famous and forbidden national dishes" WeAreMitu (December 20, 2019) Accessed August 10, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Guy, Jack "Ropa Vieja: How Cuba stole its national dish from the Canary Islands" (October 9, 2017) Accessed August 10, 2021.
  8. ^ P, Neil (March 16, 2020). "History of Cuba's Famous Dish Ropa Vieja". Latin Post - Latin news, immigration, politics, culture.
  9. ^ a b c Scott, Leah (December 20, 2019). "A History Of Ropa Vieja, One Of Cuba's Most Famous (And Forbidden) National Dishes". we are Mitú. 100% American & Latino.
  10. ^ Ross, Chris "Cuban shredded beef has origins in Spain" San Diego (June 25, 2018). Accessed August 10, 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Recipe: Carne Mechada/Venezuelan Shredded/Pull Beef" Veneuzelan Cooking (Dec. 7 2011). Accessed August 10, 2021.
  12. ^ Dinho, Erica "Carne Desmechada o Ropa Vieja (Shredded Beef)" Accessed August 10, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Thorman, Kate "The fascinating story of Cuba's revolutionary cuisine" Afar (September 4, 2013) Accessed August 10, 2021.
  14. ^ Svarch, Malena "Even 1,300 miles from home, a young cook remembers Havana" Jewish Food Society (Oct. 19, 2018). Accessed August 12, 2021
  15. ^ Eskenazi, Gerald "How Fidel Castro saved Cuba's only kosher butcher" The Forward (March 11, 2015). Accessed August 12, 2021.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Kemper, Benjamin "This Meaty Stew Recipe Is a Uniquely Satisfying Winter-Weekend Project " Wall Street Journal (February 18, 2021). Accessed August 12, 2021.
  18. ^ López-Alt, J. Kenji "Ropa Vieja" "Ropa Vieja" New York Times Cooking (magazine)
  19. ^ Ozimek, Sarah "Carne Mechada (Venezuealan Shredded Beef" Curious Cuiniere (March 20, 2021). Accessed August 10, 2021.
  20. ^ a b "VenezuelaTuya". Venezuela Tuya.
  21. ^ CARTAY, Rafael (1998). "Elogio y nostalgia de la cocina venezolana". Caravelle (1988-). 71 (71): 53–65. doi:10.3406/carav.1998.2807. ISSN 1147-6753. JSTOR 40853493.
  22. ^ "ropa vieja" Accessed August 10, 2021.
  23. ^ "Ropa Vieja" The Sofritro Project (February 24, 2019). Accessed August 10, 2021
  24. ^ L. C. Editors (March 2, 2021). "Puerto Rican-Style Ropa Vieja". Leite's Culinaria.
  25. ^ "Puerto Rican Style Ropa Vieja" (March 2, 2021). Accessed August 10, 2021.
  26. ^ Kratz, Elizabeth "Sender's to serve elevated Cuban fare at Pop-up on March 10" JewishLink (March 4, 2021). Accessed August 12, 2021.