The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Cuba as coolies (indentured servants), imported by Spanish settlers in the mid-1800s to work in the sugarcane fields. Most were men from the Chinese province of Guangdong. After their eight-year contracts were fulfilled, most stayed on, and settled in what was to become El Bario Chino de la Habana (Havana’s Chinatown). As in the United States, many Chinese immigrants opened restaurants and made a definite impact on Cuban cooking. Today, fried rice is a dish that is routinely prepared by Cubans from all ethnic backgrounds.
- 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice, or 4 cups leftover cooked white rice
- 4 eggs
- 3 to 4 tablespoons peanut oil
- ¼ pound roast pork, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
- ¼ pound ham, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
- ¼ pound small fresh shrimp, cooked in boiling water
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon Asian chile-garlic sauce (optional)
- 3 to 5 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 green onions (green and white parts only), thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Place the rice in a saucepan and add 2½ cups cold water. Cover tightly and bring to a boil over high heat. When you see steam beginning to escape, turn the heat down to very low, but do not remove the lid. Cook the rice over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat but don’t remove the lid. Let the rice stand, covered, for 20 minutes, then fluff with chopsticks and let cool completely. When cool, cover and refrigerate the rice overnight.
In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with 2 tablespoons water. Rub a small, nonstick or well-seasoned skillet with some of the oil and place it over medium heat. Pour in enough egg to cover the bottom of the skillet, rotating the skillet to spread the egg mixture into a thin omelet. Cook until barely set. Turn and cook for a few seconds on the other side. Turn the omelet out onto a work surface and roll it up into a tube. Continue to make and roll up omelets until all of the egg mixture has been cooked. With a sharp knife, slice the rolls crosswise to make long, thin strips. Dice the pork and ham, and peel and cut the shrimp in half lengthwise; set aside.
Place a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining oil and the garlic cloves. Cook, stirring, pressing down on the garlic to flavor the oil. When the garlic begins to brown, remove and discard it. Add the ginger and the cooked rice to the wok. Stir briefly, just so that the rice doesn’t stick. Add the egg strips, diced meat, and shrimp and stir to combine them with the rice. Gradually stir in the chile-garlic sauce, if using, and the soy sauce. Add the green onions, stir once or twice, and sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve immediately.
This recipe serves 6. Nutritional information is based on using 3 tablespoons each of peanut oil and soy sauce.