Fri, 23 Apr 2021

by Yosley Carrero

HAVANA, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Luis Ramon Battle, who works as a chef at La Calesa Real Restaurant in Havana's historical downtown, creates new food recipes amid the country's efforts to boost tourism through local cuisine.

Having worked at a restaurant in China's Dongguan, Guangdong province in 2015 for six months, the 50-year-old honed his skills as a professional cook.

"In China, I learned to better use soy sauce and ginger in preparing different dishes as well as to make bitter-sweet sauces," he said. "We have huge potential and many things to show the world."

At present, all the airports in Cuba except in Havana have resumed operations, and most of the country, including the island's largest seaside resort Varadero, is open to international travelers.

Eddy Fernandez, president of the Cuban Culinary Federation, told Xinhua that foreign visitors to the island would learn the resourcefulness of local chefs circumventing material shortages caused by the six-decade U.S. economic blockade.

Hundreds of chefs from the Cuban Culinary Federation expect gastronomy can provide visitors with a sample of their culture and identity, help restaurants' and hotel facilities' recovery and support the economy.

"We are creating recipes in line with international standards," said Fernandez. "Cuban cuisine can provide tourists with non-greasy, non-sugary, and low sodium dishes. We are also working to promote healthy eating habits."

The Cuban Culinary Federation's publisher won the top prize at the 2020 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for exploring the local culture of the Caribbean country through the diversity of its local cuisine.

Tourists who arrived in Cuba from Africa, Europe, and China enriched the local cuisine with their native ingredients and cooking skills.

Cuban authorities organize food festivals and culinary workshops that showcase both the history and new tendencies of the local cuisine. In the year of 2019, the Cuban cuisine has been declared as National Cultural Heritage by the National Heritage Council of Cuba, saying that "cuisine is part of the national identity."

So far, nearly 600 elite chefs have graduated from the Cuban Culinary Federation, who are working for the state and private sectors on the island.

The author of the book "The Treasure of the Cuban Cuisine," senior chef Jorge Junco, is one of the graduates of the federation. "Many of our fundamental dishes include pork meat, introduced in Cuba by Chinese migrants by 1850," Junco said, adding that "currently, we cook pork chop suey, fried rice, and Chinese soup, along with countless traditional recipes."

After being shut for more than seven months, most restaurants and eateries across the country restarted to offer on-site dining, abiding by social distancing guidelines in keeping with COVID-19 health protocols.

In early July, Cuba partially reopened its borders to foreign tourists, months after the Caribbean nation announced the suspension of international flights as a precautionary measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus nationwide in late March.

Between January and September this year, the island received about 989,000 international travelers, ranking third in the Caribbean, behind Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, according to Jose Luis Perello, a university professor and tourism industry analyst.

"The tourism industry is the driving force of the Cuban economy. We need to continue attracting foreign visitors. Cuba is music, beach, and exquisite food, too," Perello told Xinhua.

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