Caldosa: A Traditional Cuban Stew
Caldosa: A Traditional Cuban Stew

If there’s one dish that identifies and unites all Cubans, without a doubt, it’s caldosa. I really can’t remember taking part in any celebration that didn’t involve this stew. Besides its addictive flavor, everything that comes with a caldosa suggests a big celebration. Let me explain why.

Usually, the neighbors around the block get together to prepare it. In an open space, so everyone can see, and sometimes even in the street, they build a bonfire and place a big caldero over the flames. There are always tons of kids playing outside as music blares throughout the neighborhood.

In Cuba, of course, it began with the collection of ingredients. Most of these complied with the government-imposed rationing. In combination with those rationed ingredients, it was common for the local residents to bring some “reinforcements.” On several occasions, I was in charge of going from door-to-door to ask for “donations”. I also got to try the soup to see if it was cooked to perfection as my older neighbors only trusted my sense of taste. Caldosa requires several vegetables (yucca, potato, pumpkin, plantain, sweet potato), spices (garlic, onion, pepper, chili pepper, tomato, cumin) and meat (even though the recipe calls for hen, pork may be used because it’s more affordable.)

The original recipe was created in 1979 by Kike and Marina, a couple from the province of Las Tunas. Some say that the first time they served this dish was to welcome back their son who had been abroad. Little by little, the whole neighborhood got to discover the delicious stew. The recipe spread around the town and then across the whole country thanks to a song. It turns out la caldosa de Kike y Marina, which is the stew’s official name, has its own traditional song composed by Rogelio Díaz who was the couple’s neighbor. It was showcased by Jilguero de Cienfuegos, a famous country singer. This catchy song praises the Cuban recipe.

Anyone who has tasted this soup knows that it’s invigorating, which is why it’s not just the preferred meal for big communal events, but also for birthday parties and for other family gatherings. Would you prepare this dish for your next party? Do you have a similar recipe?

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