A closeup of a ropa vieja dish.
Ropa Vieja: What Makes The Cuban Meat Stew Distinctive?
By Laura Zbinden
If you're about to embark on a culinary adventure to Cuba, a great dish to kick off this adventure is a delicious ropa vieja — Cuba's national dish.
Ropa vieja, literally "old clothes" in Spanish, is a type of stew traditionally made with tomato gravy and flank steak that is shredded to look like pieces of old cloth.
It may not have a very appetizing name, but ropa vieja has punchy, bright flavors, and its unique taste and versatility come down to its base broth.
While most ropa vieja recipes often start with beef bouillon or beef broth, many also call for either a bunch of fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce.
Ropa vieja can be made with many types of meats, including beef, pork, lamb, or chicken, and tomatoes add an acidic, fresh flavor, which goes well with red and white meats.
This punchy Cuban stew often includes diced red and green bell peppers, which bring a vegetal sweetness, and stuffed olives or capers for a salty kick.
The dish is normally finished with a handful of bright green chopped cilantro and served over plain white rice or black beans and rice with a side of plantains.