Sino-Cubano (Chinese Fried Rice)

Cuba’s Chinese influence might surprise most; however, the Chinese population has existed in Cuba since 1857 when Cantonese and Hakka workers were brought to the island to work in the vast sugar fields. More than 150,000 Chinese men came from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau to work alongside the African slaves already on the island. Although the Chinese weren’t necessarily considered “slaves,” they worked through ruthless conditions and were treated with the same stringent rules that their slave counterparts endured. Most Chinese workers lived in Cuba on an eight-year contract, and once that contract was finished many stayed on, despite wanting to return home. Naturally, races intermixed, adding even more diversity to the already multicultural Cuban race. According to 2008 statistics from the CIA World Factbook, only 300 of the island’s 113,000 Chinese are pure Chinese. The Barrio Chino de La Habana, or  Chinatown of Havana, is considered the oldest Chinese neighborhood in Latin America to date. Restaurants, which are more Cuban and Italian in cuisine than Chinese, flank the streets. However, the Chinese influence in Cuban food can still be seen in dishes like fried rice, spring rolls, and fried wontons found in many restaurants on the island.
Serves 4–6

Oil, for frying
2 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined,
and butterflied
4 lobsters, shells removed
4 crabs, shells removed
6 eggs
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp chicken stock or broth
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup diced carrot
4 cups cooked rice
½ cup chicken stock or broth mixed
with 2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 cups diced ham
½ cup chopped green onions
½ cup frozen green peas

Coat a frying pan with oil and sauté the shrimp, lobster, and crab, and set aside. Beat the eggs with a whisk, adding in the soy sauce and chicken broth. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large 5-quart sauté pan, coating the bottom and sides thoroughly. When the oil is sizzling hot, pour half of the egg mixture in so it coats the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the egg through, flipping once. Remove from the pan and cut the egg into strips. In the same pan sauté the onion and green pepper over medium-low heat until the onion becomes translucent. Turn the heat down to low. Add the garlic and carrots. Continue to cook for approximately 1–2 minutes, and remove from heat before the garlic browns. Add the rice and a dash of oil to the pan and fry for approximately 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in enough chicken broth to flavor the rice, but not enough to make it soupy. Add in the second half of the egg mixture. Add the ham and cooked seafood, and stir. Continue cooking for approximately 5 minutes. Fold in the green onions, green peas, and egg strips. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1–2 minutes.

(Found on page 74 of Cuban Flavor)

liza gershman